Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taxes of a Thousand Cuts

An interesting itemized list of taxes (not tax deductions):

Taxes upon every article which enters the mouth or covers the back or is placed under the foot. Taxes upon everything which it is pleasant to see, hear, feel, smell, or taste. Taxes upon warmth, light, and locomotion. Taxes on everything on earth or under the earth, on everything that comes from abroad or is grown at home. Taxes on the raw material, taxes on every fresh value that is added to it by the industry of man. Taxes on the sauce which pampers man’s appetite, and the drug which restores him to health; on the ermine which decorates the judge, and the rope which hangs the criminal; on the poor man’s salt and the rich man’s spice; on the brass nails of the coffin, and the ribbons of the bride; at bed or board, couchant or levant, we must pay. The schoolboy whips his taxed top; the beardless youth manages his taxed horse, with a taxed bridle, on a taxed road; and the dying Englishmen, pouring his medicine, which has paid 7 per cent., into a spoon that has paid 15 percent., flings himself back upon his chintz bed, which has paid 22 per cent., and expires in the arm of an apothecary who has paid a license of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death. His whole property is then immediately taxed from 2 to 10 per cent. Besides the probate, large fees are demanded for burying him in the chancel. His virtues are handed down to posterity on taxed marble, and he will be gathered to his fathers to be taxed no more.

Gordon Brown’s Britain? Obama’s future America?

This passage is taken from an essay of Sydney Smith, published in the Edinburgh Review in 1820, five years after the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars.

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