Read Chapter XXVII - Usury oppresses the poor(Continued) of Usury A Scriptural‚ Ethical and Economic View , free online book, by Calvin Elliott, on

Usury makes it possible to impose on the poor the principal burden of taxation. Though taxes are levied upon property it is a delusion to think that those who own no property pay no taxes. By usury the taxes are easily slipped upon the poor.

If the tax levy is one per cent. on property then in a year the one hundred dollars has been decreased by one dollar and is but ninety-nine, unless that dollar has been supplied from other earnings of the owner. Thus vacant lots, jewels and hoarded stores are a burden to their owner. But when the property can add to itself an increase, then there need be no diminution of the amount, and no sacrifice is necessary on the part of the owner. If the wealth is placed in the form of a loan on mortgage on a house, the tenant in his rental pays the interest on that mortgage, which meets the tax and also yields a revenue to the owner, and leaves the wealth undiminished. The tenant earned the tax, and both property and owner are relieved. The mortgage may be upon a manufacturing plant, when the operatives pay the tax from their earnings.

The bonded debt of a city or state, in the ultimate result, is collected from the productive labor. To pay the interest and principal of the bonded debt of a city the tax levy is increased, and a greater proportionate amount of labor is appropriated. Laboring people without property are often amazed at the indifference of property holders when a great bonded debt is incurred, as both interest and principal are to be paid by a tax upon property. Those who make the loan to the city, and all who hold mortgages and dividend paying properties, are complacent because the taxes of a hundred years would never diminish their property a dollar, though the tax levy should be doubled. It would raise the interest on money, diminish the price of labor and raise the price of goods, but those who profit by the gain of usury are untouched by it.

Recently complaints were made by the tenants of one of the poor districts of London because their rentals had been greatly increased. The reply of the landlord was direct and clear: “You have voted for public improvements and now you must pay for them.”

The same is true of the interest and principal of the national debt. The revenue is raised from a levy upon importations, as, for example, tea, the tax on which is ten cents per pound. The tax is collected from the importer and by him attached to the price for which it is sold to the wholesale dealer and by him attached to the price he charges the retail dealer and by him the amount is collected from the consumer. Sufficient notice is usually given that the importer and the dealers may dispose of all their goods before the tariff is removed. A public announcement of such a purpose was recently made in reference to the tax upon tea.

The tax collected from the consumer is far heavier than the mere levy of the government. The importer demands a profit on the amount of revenue tax he has paid as well as on the amount he pays for the goods. This results in greatly increasing the burdens of the poor. The revenue tax recently imposed by Great Britain of three pence per cwt. on wheat and five pence per cwt. on flour resulted immediately in the addition of one penny to the price of the four-pound loaf to the consumers.

Again: This attributing to property the quality of self-perpetuation and increase has led to its incorporation and in a manner separation from those who own it. Property must always have an owner.

Personality must always come in else there are no rights to be considered. Labor apart from a person laboring and property apart from a person owning are impersonal and no ethical or moral laws can be applied to them. They are only physical forces and material things. The wind may push against a tree and overcome its resistance and the tree falls. That is merely an abstract force against a material thing. But when my energy is exerted against your tree and destroys it, then personal responsibility and personal rights must be considered. A righteous adjustment between labor and capital can never be arrived at without the consideration of the personal elements on both sides. The moral and ethical laws must be applied as well as the physical and economic.

Incorporated property, however, has eliminated from it the ethical and moral responsibility of personality and is regarded as possessed only of economic and physical qualities and restrained only by legal statutes.

Incorporated properties are not generally managed by those who own them. The managers are employed by the owners, who are ready to pay large compensation to those who have the tact and brain and nerve power and peculiar quality of conscience to gain for them a satisfactory increase. It is their work to press this irresponsible material body up against “flesh and blood.”

The incorporation employs the laborer when his labor earns a satisfactory dividend on the capital, and lays him off or discharges him whenever it seems most to the advantage of the investment. A plant is built and operated for a time and then the plant is closed, or the location is changed without the slightest regard to the sacrifices of the poor laborers who have gathered around and are left stranded.

Laborers everywhere throughout Christendom need and beg for a Sabbath of rest, but neither physical needs nor conscientious scruples are regarded when a greater dividend can be gained in seven days than in six.

On the part of the workman, resistance is useless. He can do nothing but yield to the economic and physical force managed by those in whom human sympathy and pity for the suffering and helpless are not permitted. The dividend must be gained though it be necessary to grind the poor.

The owner of this steel plant is in a distant city. All employes, from the manager down to the porter, must so serve that he shall receive the dividend. This mercantile house is owned by a woman on a pleasure trip round the world. All who are connected with this business must so serve and sacrifice that she shall receive her income regularly. This railroad is owned by those who have gone a-yachting in southern seas. It must be so managed that the revenues shall not fail whatever the sacrifice required of others.

The writer once heard an American statesman, who afterward became President of the United States, deliver an elaborate and carefully prepared oration on a great occasion, in which he discussed the growing power and controlling influence in state and national affairs of incorporations. He did not formulate a remedy but said, “The problem to be solved by the next generation is, how shall the people be protected against the encroachments of incorporated wealth?” It need scarcely be said that there was no discussion of that question during the campaign which closed with his election to the presidency.

Usury is both the basis of the incorporation and the instrument of its oppression. Incorporated wealth must not be permitted to claim personal rights and yet escape personal responsibility. It must be held to the same ethical and moral laws as the individual. Personal responsibility must not be eliminated from property. It must not be divested of personal responsibility and then pressed as a mere material thing up against “flesh and blood.”

No instrument of oppression ever surpassed in severity the usury of incorporated wealth and retained the pretense of respectability. It is sucking the blood of the poor every hour, yet they cherish and pet the vampire, not realizing that it is their blood upon which it feeds.