Archive | December 11, 2011

Why the Income Tax Is Impossible

A decade or two ago I picked up a slim volume titled An Anthology of Pieces From Early Editions of Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1963. On p. 47 I find the following item by economist J. R. McCulloch (1789-1864), from the 7th edition (1830-42) of the Britannica, explaining why a tax on income wouldn’t work, because no people “not altogether enslaved” would put up with the “odious inquiry into the affairs of individuals” that would be needed to make such a program workable:

Taxation of Income Impracticable

The difficulties in the way of assessing income are of two sorts: 1st, The difficulty of ascertaining the amount of the annual revenue of different individuals; and, 2nd, Supposing that amount to be known, the difficulty of laying an equal tax on income derived from different sources.

It would be useless to dwell at any considerable length on the first of these heads. Incomes arising from the rent of land and houses, mortgages, funded property, and such like sources, may be learned with tolerable precision; but it neither has been, and, we are bold to say, never will be, possible to determine the incomes of farmers, manufacturers, dealers of all sorts, and professional men, with anything like even the rudest approximation to accuracy. It is in vain to attempt to overcome this insuperable difficulty by instituting an odious inquiry into the affairs of individuals. It is not, indeed, very likely that any people, not altogether enslaved, would tolerate, in ordinary circumstances, such inquisitorial proceedings; but whether they did or did not, the result would be the same. The investigations would be worthless; and the commissioners of an income-tax would in the end have nothing to trust to but the declarations of the parties. Hence it is that the tax would fall with its full weight upon men of integrity, while the millionaire of “easy virtue” would well nigh escape it altogether. It would, in fact, be a tax on honesty, and a bounty on perjury and fraud; and, if carried to any considerable height – to such a height as to render it a prominent source of income – it would undoubtedly generate the most barefaced prostitution of principle, and would do much to obliterate that nice sense of honor which is the only sure foundation of national probity and virtue.

The Angel In Your Memory

Back in the 1960s, shows like Doctor Who and The Avengers were broadcast once and then usually destroyed or taped over. So there are lots of missing episodes from those early shows. But every once in a while, one of the strays turns up – sometimes because a fan recorded it at home (a more arduous process in those pre-VCR days), sometimes because a copy was shipped to an overseas affiliate and never returned.

As of today, the number of missing Doctor Who episodes has dropped from 108 to 106. The two recovered episodes – one from Galaxy 4 and one from The Underwater Menace – aren’t exactly at the top of fans’ most wanted list (probably the last episode of The Tenth Planet, or any episode from Marco Polo, The Massacre, or Power of the Daleks, would fit that bill better), but hey, we’ll take what we can get.

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