Jeremy Bentham

A Protest against Law-Taxes

Published by Good Press, 2021
goodpress@okpublishing.info
EAN 4064066456375

Table of Contents


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Titlepage
A PROTEST AGAINST LAW - TAXES, SHEWING THE PECULIAR MISCHIEVOUSNESS OF ALL SUCH IMPOSITIONS AS ADD TO THE EXPENSE OF APPEAL TO JUSTICE. By JEREMY BENTHAM OF LINCOLN'S INN, ESQ.
A PROTEST AGAINST LAW - TAXES.

A Protest against Law-Taxes

A PROTEST AGAINST LAW - TAXES, SHEWING THE PECULIAR MISCHIEVOUSNESS OF ALL SUCH IMPOSITIONS AS ADD TO THE EXPENSE OF APPEAL TO JUSTICE. By JEREMY BENTHAM OF LINCOLN'S INN, ESQ.

A PROTEST AGAINST LAW - TAXES.

Table of Contents

Taxes on law-proceedings constitute in many, and perhaps in all nations, a part of the resources of the state. They do so in Great Britain: they do so in Ireland. In Great Britain, an extension of them is to be found among the latest productions of the budget: in Ireland, a further extension of them is among the measures of the day. It is this impending extension that calls forth the publication of the present sheets, the substance of which has lain upon the shelf these many years.

It is a well-known parliamentary saying, that he who reprobates a tax ought to have a better in his hand.[1] A juster condition never was imposed. I fulfil it at the first word. My better tax is—any other that can be named.

The people, when considered with a view to the manner in which they are affected by a tax of this description, may be distinguished into two classes: those who in each instance of requisition have wherewithal to pay, and those who have not: to the former, we shall find it more grievous than any other kind of tax, to the latter a still more cruel grievance.

Taxes on consumption cannot fall but where there is some fund to pay them: of poll taxes, and taxes on unproductive property, the great imperfection is, that they may chance to bear where such ability may be wanting. Taxes upon law-proceedings fall upon a man just at the time when the likelihood of his wanting that ability is at the utmost. When a man sees more or less of his property unjustly withholden from him, then is the time taken to call upon him for an extraordinary contribution. When the back of the innocent has been worn raw by the yoke of the oppressor, then is the time which the appointed guardians of innocence have thus pitched upon for loading him with an extraordinary burthen.² Most taxes are, as all taxes ought to be, taxes upon affluence: it is the characteristic property of this to be a tax upon distress.

A tax on bread, though a tax on consumption, would hardly be reckoned a good tax; bread being reckoned in most countries where it is used, among the necessaries of life. A tax on bread, however, would not be near so bad a tax as one on law-proceedings: A man who pays to a tax on bread, may, indeed, by reason of such payment, be unable to get so much bread as he wants, but he will always get some bread, and in proportion as he pays more and more to the tax, he will get more and more bread. Of a tax upon justice, the effect may be, that after he has paid the tax, he may, without getting justice by the payment, lose bread by it: bread, the whole quantity on which he depended for the subsistence of himself and his family for the season, may, as well as any thing else, be the very thing for which he is obliged to apply to justice. Were a three-penny stamp to be put upon every three-penny loaf, a man who had but three-penny to spend in bread, could no longer indeed get a three-penny loaf, but an obliging baker could cut him out the half of one. A tax on justice admits of no such retrenchment. The most obliging stationer could not cut a man out half a latitat nor half a declaration. Half justice, where it is to be had, is better than no justice: but without buying the whole weight of paper, there is no getting a grain of justice.

A tax on necessaries is a tax on this or that article, of the commodities which happen to be numbered among necessaries: a tax on justice is a tax on all necessaries put together. A tax on a necessary of life can only lessen a man's share of that particular sort of article: a tax on justice may deprive a man, and that in any proportion, of all sorts of necessaries.

This is not yet the worst. It is not only a burthen that comes in the train of distress, but a burthen against which no provision can be made.

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