Concluding Thought and Deductions
WE have now traced the history of English public finance from the time of the accession of William III down to the present day. We have found that with relatively unimportant exceptions the debt has arisen from the extraordinary expenses of the various wars in which the nation has been engaged. We have seen that the cost of war has progressively increased and that after each war all expenses of the State have risen to a new level. We have found little disposition to reduce debt during the intervals of peace. However, we have found that the growth of the nation in material resources has reduced in each historical period the burden of the debt.
We have learned that the English financiers have always derived a substantial portion of the cost of each war period from taxation. Turning to the revenue from taxation, we discover that the most flexible source of taxation has proved to be the income tax. The finance ministers since that form of taxation was introduced, have found it comparatively easy to meet the requirements of a new situation by slightly or largely raising or lowering the rate of this tax. It is no longer necessary to hunt up fantastic sources of income, such as taxation of bachelors, hearth taxes, window taxes and the like. Again, so far as the customs are concerned, it has been learned that much better results can be obtained from a moderate tax on a few articles of common use than by taxing many articles. This simplifies administration and reduces the cost of collecting the taxes.