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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Present Unfairness

Present Unfairness.

As the law stands now, everybody alike pays far too much for the necessaries of life, owing to customs duties and dear railway traffic. The ordinary workman, whose gross income is £93 a year—6s. a day for 310 working days in the year, and the man who, merely as a receiver of the price of produce or rents from land, dividends from shares, salary or fees from his own professional skill and industry, or in any other pursuit, has a gross income of £1000 or £20,000 a year—£2 14s. 9d. or £54 16s. a day for 365 days in the year: each of these equally pays, on the average, at least about 20 percent, more through duty on the imported value of food, clothing, furniture and household utensils, cleanliness, medicine and medical comforts, light, stationery, conveyance (other than by rail), and building materials—whether or not of a more costly nature than he is obliged to buy. In the matter of stimulants, the poor man contributes in a larger proportion than the man of superfluous income: the duty on spirits and common tobacco bears a much higher proportion to the value, than does the duty on wine, imported beer, cigars and snuff.

Everybody alike pays fully 36 per cent, too much for his fuel, and proportionately too much for everything else lie wants carried by rail, including himself, in consequence of the wasteful and partial management of our railways.

This grievance is aggravated, in the case of the man of smallest income, by the fact that he is taxed in a very much larger proportion to his income than is the man of larger income. If the burden arising from the taxes on necessaries, together with that arising from excess of railway charges on the conveyance of necessaries and on personal locomotion amount to an average of £5 per head of the population, a burden of say £3 14s. per head, is inflicted on the very large majority of the taxpayers. This amounts to one twenty-fifth part, or 4 per cent, of the workman's income of £93 yearly, or 6s. per day for 310 working days in the year. If his family page 19 consist of five head, to £18 10s., one-fifth, or 20 per cent, of his income. In order to bear an equal burden, the receiver of £1000 a year should spend £40 a year—if his family be five, £200 a year; the man whose income is £20,000 a year should spend £800 a year—if his family be five, £4000 a year in duties on necessaries, and in excess of rail way charges on carrying his and their necessaries, and his and their own absolutely necessary railway travel. This, of course, is not the case; but even if it were, the far larger number of men of small income would in the aggregate pay by far the largest—indeed, the chief portion of the whole burden of oppressive taxes and oppressive railway charges.

No adjustment of taxation can be fair between all classes, which is not mainly founded on the principle that every receiver of revenue created in the Colony, whether dwelling in it or not, should pay yearly towards the cost of its government, in proportion to the amount of yearly revenue which the maintenance of that government enables him to receive in peace and security.

Not only is the present state of things, in which Customs duties are chiefly relied on for defraying the cost of government, opposed to this principle, by taxing only dwellers in proportion to their expenditure alone, instead of dwellers and absentees alike in proportion chiefly to their revenue; but in the taxation of expenditure, a much larger proportion of the taxes is collected from the necessaries of life than from superfluous luxuries; and the man whose income is so snail that he can afford to buy but a very small share of luxuries, pays a much larger proportion of that limited income to the State when he does indulge in luxuries, than the man possessed of large income pays out of his abundance.