THE subject of Public Finance, as distinct from that of
Political Economy, has not of late years attracted much
attention in Great Britain. The very excellence of
English financial institutions and management has con-
tributed to this result by making the need of theoretic
study as a basis for practical reforms less pressing.
Though our financial literature is not quite so poor as
some critics imagine, it must be allowed to be deficient
in works dealing with the subject as a whole. Since the
well-known book of McCulloch first published in 1845
and now out of print there has been no manual available
for the student.
Such a want is specially felt in the work of teaching.
A lecturer who desires to deal with financial questions
has no text-book like those at the service of his French,
German, and Italian colleagues to use as the groundwork
of his instruction, and is therefore compelled to make
constant reference to foreign treatises not readily accessible
to, or easily read by, his class.
In the present work I have sought to temporarily supply
this need by going over the whole field of Public Finance
and presenting the results in a systematic form, so that
a student may at least obtain a general knowledge of
the leading facts and present position of this branch of
political science. The selection of topics and the space assigned to each have been determined under the influence
of this guiding idea, which has led to limitation of the
treatment in two respects.
In the first place, I have not sought to specially discuss
matters of temporary or local political interest, or to
decide on the merits of the conflicting arguments of party
advocates. For the purpose of scientific study it is the
general and permanent aspects of finance that most require
elucidation. None the less, however, do conditions that
underlie existing political controversies frequently come
into view. In every department of Finance questions of
real and practical importance are to be found. The
' purely academic discussion ' of to-day will be the ' burn-
ing question ' of a twelvemonth hence. This explanation
is necessary to account for the apparently curt treatment
of certain prominent questions such as that of compulsory
insurance (p. 85) which I had disposed of long. before the
present situation had arisen.
Again, I have not thought it advisable to devote space
to discussion of the financial bearings of the latest economic
theories. Admitting fully the great ability and vigour
with which the supporters of the Austrian school have
urged its claims, I feel that the controversy is as yet un-
closed and that the complete acceptance of the new theory
seems at the utmost to involve a translation rather than a
reconstruction of the older views on Finance, while the
practical deductions to be drawn from it are not at all
clear or universally accepted even by its upholders. A full
examination of its influence on Finance would, from both
the length and the difficulty of the inquiry, be altogether
unsuited for a work like the present. Where necessary
as in the case of progressive taxation (p. 284) I have,
however, noted its bearing.
In acknowledging my many and heavy obligations I feel bound first to mention M. P. Leroy Beaulieu, whose Traite
dc la Science des Finances is probably the best-known and
most generally valued work on the subject. It was in
his full and admirably lucid treatise that I first studied
the science, and I have always used it with pleasure and
profit. Next, I would place the elaborate work of Wagner,
who supplies his readers alike with ingenious, if often
disputable doctrines, and carefully collected masses of
material. The manuals of Cohn, Roscher, and (though
in a less degree) Stein I have also found very serviceable.
On questions of administration and control I owe most to
M. Stourm's Le Budget. The same writer's Les Finances
de VAncien Regime et de la Revolution threw most light
on that important part of French financial history.
I used with advantage Clamageran's Histoire de I Impot
en France for the earlier periods. In respect to England
Mr. Dowell's instructive and entertaining volumes have,
been my chief guide. Besides the usual books of reference
amongst which I would specially name the successive issues
of The Statesman's Yearbook ', the Annuaire de Economic
Politique, The Statistical Abstract, and The Victorian
Yearbook the two Dictionnaires of M. Le"on Say, and the
works of Vignes, Fournier de Flaix, Alessio, and Professor
Ely gave me most information on existing conditions.
In dealing with financial statistics which have been kept
within the narrowest possible limits I have in most cases
rounded the figures in order to fasten attention on the
really important fa'cts expressed by them. For the same
reason in the conversion of foreign money into English
I have been satisfied with the approximate equation of
1 = $5 = 25 francs or lire = 20 marks. The fluctuations
of the rupee, the Austrian florin, and the rouble have
generally made their conversion undesirable, but I have
sometimes taken them at their exchange value.
Finally, I should explain that the references are, unless
where otherwise stated, to the volume and page of the
particular author. In order ^to prevent any mistake I have
added a list of the chief works referred to and the editions
C. F. BASTABLE.
TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN.