Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Tao Te King to Telegraphy >> Tariff_P1


duties, import, protection, european, france, export and national

Page: 1 2 3

TARIFF. The taxation of goods by the imposition of customs duties upon passing the national boundary line or some fixed point is an ancient method of raising revenue. The earliest form of this tax was probably the transit duty imposed on goods passing through a district and was justified as a payment for protection or for special facilities. The ex port duty, levied on goods as they leave the taxing territory, came next in historical order. What in fact could be mare just, it was thought, than a tax upon goods of whose use the home conununity would be deprived and the burden of which would be borne by the foreign con sumer. Finally there developed import duties which are tnade use of in practically every civilized state to-day. Transit duties have dis appeared as a form of national finance; export duties are of fiscal-importance to-day only in Turkey and India. But import duties contribute a large though variable ,proportion of the ievenues of the United States and of the lead ing European states. In the United States be fore the imposition of the income tax they made up nearly one-half of the Federal re ceipts; before the European War they consti tuted about one-half of the net receipts of the German Empire; about one-quarter of the total revenues of England; and about 15 per cent of those of France and Italy.

Among the civilized nations of antiquity tariffs for revenue purposes were generally used. The Greeks, and more especially the Athenians, levied customs duties upon both imports and exports, the usual rate being about 2 per cent. The Roman state also resorted regularly to this form of taxation. With the breakdown of centralized governrnent during the Middle Ages the feudal lords clanned the right of imposing transit duties on all goods passing through their domains, nominally as a payment for protection. When feudalism in turn gave way to strong monarchies the rights of the lords in this regard were exercised by the Icings and to local tariffs were added national ones. Every European country was covered with a network of customs lines which greatly hindered trade, but were not productive of commensurate revenues. The history of modern tariff legislation has been the simpli fication of this complicated system.

In England a complex system of import and export duties had slowly developed by the con stant addition of new objects of taxation and by the confusing practice of assigning the proceeds of each new duty to a different pur pose or fund. In 1787 Pitt consolidated all

of the tariff duties into one general fund. At this time about 1,200 articles were subject to import duties and about 50 to export duties. The next step in the direction of simplifica tion of the tariff was effected in lt324 by Huskis son, who abolished most of the export duties, freed raw materials of their burdens and con solidated a mass of tariff acts. The real be ginning of modern English free trade was made during the period 1842-60, when some 938 articles were placed on the free list. Prac tically the only articles upon which import du ties were collected after 1860 were sugar, cocoa, coffee, chicory, dried fruit, tea, tobacco, wine, beer and spirits. In spite of the decrease in the number of dutiable articles the revenues from the few remaining ones steadily. increased, with a corresponding reduction in cost and aimpli fication of administration. With the increasing competition of German and American manu factures, especially since about 1900, a reaction in favor of protection has arisen in some quar ters. Since the outbreak of the European War this movement has takcn the form of a de mand for preferential treatment of the colonies.

In France the diverse and multifarious pro vincial tariffs were swept away in 1.790 and the fallawing year a common and uniform tanff against foreign countries was established. For the first time France now had economic unity. Duties were at first moderate, but under Napoleon they were made highly protective, a system which was continued under the Resto ration and extended to agriculture as well as manufactures. Under the monarchy of Louis Philippe the government was administered in the interest of the middle class and conse quently no changes were made in this policy. But with the establishment of the empire a more liberal policy was introduced which cul minated in the Commercial Treaty of 1860 with England. By 1881 the pendulum had swung in the other direction again, and the new tariff of that year was much more protective. A decade later protection was extended to agri culture and since that time France has main tained a policy of all-around protection and national self-sufficiency.

Page: 1 2 3