The Kameralists - Taxation Theory

The Kameralists, Taxation Theory

Although a discussion of the canons of taxation laid down by Adam Smith follows logically after the views of David Hume, we must turn first to a description of the ideas of the Kameralists in Germany. In the work of Johann Heinrich von Justi (1720-1771) the emphasis upon the function of the state reaches its maximum. He not only adopts the central ideas of the Mercan­tilists as to how the riches of the state may be increased, he in­quires into the uses to which the state may put them.

Justi's views on taxation were expressed in detail in his work Political Economy, or a Systematic Treatise on All Economic and Kameral Sciences (1755). In a very real sense his ideas antedate similar ideas expressed by Adam Smith. The chief points empha­sized by Justi were: Taxes should be such as to be paid willingly; they should not restrict industry and commerce; the tax should fall relatively equally; taxes should be levied only on persons or objects which made collection possible; taxes should be levied in such a way that collection would not require many officials; the time of payment and amount of taxes should meet the conven­ience of the tax-payer.

Justi continues with a discussion of the regalian and dominal rights of the monarchs. These rights were privileges exercised by the monarch as a source of revenue when the returns from his own estates no longer sufficed to maintain the kind of establish­ment he felt necessary. The regalian rights seem to lie on a middle ground between income from the domain and revenue from formal taxes. Justi classifies these rights as those pertaining to high­ways, water, forests, and minerals. Wilhelm Roscher (1817-1894), German authority in the history of economic thought, gives a more informative classification. There is the exploitation of feudal obligations and duties which the monarch permitted a subject to evade by the payment of money. The king also exer­cised the right to live off his people, especially when travelling. Property without an owner became the king's as did newly dis­covered treasure or the property of aliens. Further, the monarch sold offices and protection, received fines and shared in booty. Finally, compensation from trades, especially those requiring service or authorization from the state, was paid to the king. It is obvious that the sources of the state's revenue were complex and undependable. The regalian rights and the revenue derived therefrom tended to disappear as the king was forced to restrict his powers, and as more systematic taxation was introduced as a means of providing financial support for a public office.