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PART III. TENNESSEE PROBLEMS.

PART III.

TENNESSEE PROBLEMS.

CHAPTER XXIII.

PUBLIC OPINION AND CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS."

In order to ascertain what is the state of public opinion 312. upon a given subject, obviously it is necessary to consult a large pat proportion of the individuals who compose the public. It is Opinion. true, however, as President Lowell says, that the intense, earnest advocacy of a very few people may become true public opinion in the face of an indifferent multitude, and that this opinion may be taken as representative of what the many would call for were they so acquainted with conditions as to feel any desire either for or against the particular proposition. Just in what particulars the Tennessee constitution may need alteration is scarcely a question upon which the majority of men and women of the state have taken time to inform themselves and consequently to possess an opinion. But there are many citizens who have given evidence of especial interest in public questions gen

ublic

1Concerning Tenn, constitutional needs as discussed a decade and more ago, see Caldwell, J. W., Constitutional History of Tennessee, ch. XIII. The Proceedings of the annual meetings of the Bar Association of Tennessee contain a number of interesting papers and reports. -Hood, R. N., Constitutional Convention, 1887, p. 184; Fentress, Francis, Some Needed Changes in Our State Constitution, 188, p. 188; Shepherd, S. J., Evils of the Present System of Taxation, 1889, p. 130; Malone, J. H., Necessity for Revision of Our Laws both Constitutional and statutory, 1893, p. 167; Caldwell, J. W.. Constitution-Making in Tennessee. 1894, p. 72; Malone, J. H., President, Address, 1902, p. 37: Reports of Committees to agitate the calling of a constitutional convention, 1895, p. 21, 1896, p. 33 (see, also, p. 39), 1897, p. 51 (see, also, p. 61). Pamphlets, -Mano: gue. R. E.. Why Tennessee Needs a New Constitution, (1897); Milton, G. F. Constitution of Tennessee. 1897. Several articles in The Tarpauer. 1895-6. Recent pamphlets, Malone, J. H., Why Tennessee Needs a New Constitution : McWhorter. J. L.. What is the Matter with Tennessee; Acklen. J. H.. The Workingman in Politics. See, also Gorernmental Reorganization, a Constitutional Need in Tennessee, by the present writer, Tenn. Hist. Maga., II, 89. ?Public Opinion and Popular Government, ch. 1.

erally and in the revision of the constitution at the present time and whose thoughts may therefore be considered as somewhat typical of the public opinion, 'actual or potential, of the electorate at large.

For the preparation of this chapter, therefore, about one hundred and seventy-five such citizens were asked to state the half-dozen ways in which they thought the state constitution stood most in need of amendment. From the varied and interesting, though not very numerous, replies received, and also from newspaper remarks and general sources of information, the following are believed to be the constitutional reforms most in demand at the present time,

(1) A change in the tax system; (2) Changes in county gov. ernment; (3) Abolition of the system of remunerating county officials by fees; (4) Various changes in machinery for the administration of justice; (5) Changes in the constitutional provisions governing the legislature and legislation, notably the abolition of special legislation for cities and counties, and (6) An increase in the functions and powers of the governor and administrative departments of the state. In addition to the suggestions for the accomplishment of which constitutional changes are necessary, many correspondents insist that the constitution should contain provisions requiring certain reforms, especially the abolition of the fee system. The repeated failure of the legislature to enact some of these reforms has doubtless furnished a very reasonable argument for making them mandatory by the state's organic law.

The most fundamental and far-reaching of the suggestions for tax reform urged that the constitution should contain no obstacle to the introduction of the single tax upon land values so soon as the people should desire it. This proposal was frankly coupled with the advocacy of the changes in land holding inherent in the single tax philosophy. More in keeping with the trend of present-day opinion, however, was the advocacy, on the part of several correspondents of the separation of the

313. Taxation.

The persons selected were believed to be men who would have opinions : 56 answers were received and also a number of letters stating that the writers were without opinions or did not wish to state them. There were 19 replies from lawyers, 11 from business men and bankers, 7 from editors, 4 from educators, 15 miscellaneous.

See Henry George, Progress and Poverty.

sources of state and local revenue. The constitution should, to
quote one of them,
authorize changes in our laws controlling taxation, so that the state
would get all of its revenue from the taxation of public utilities, com-
panies and corporations, including resident and non-resident insurance
companies, and privileges of all kinds, and provide that no county tax
of any kind should be levied upon this class of property. Then let the
counties provide for the assessment and collection of all property with-
in their limits, but [let] the taxation of personal property, such as notes,
securities, etc., be placed upon an income basis, and not ... exceed
for both county and municipalities ten per cent of the income.

The classification of property for taxation at different rates seems to be generally urged by business men. As a prominent banker puts it, the

Constitution should permit the Legislature of Tennessee to exempt from taxation certain classes of property and to classify the property and tax it at a different per centum.

Many would doubtless exempt intangible property entirely because it has no intrinsic value and its taxation must result in a second taxation of the same value. Double and even triple or quadruple taxation is sometimes required by the present tax system. The exemption of Tennessee state and local bonds is advocated in order that there may be a home market for them and that they may be floated at low interest rates.

On the other hand many people seem to continue their faith in the general property tax and seek rather to strengthen it by decreasing the number of exemptions and rendering more efficient its administration. Greater freedom of localities in tax matters, limitations of the rate for all purposes to one per cent. and the exemption of unmined minerals and standing timber were among the other proposals.

There seems to be some public opinion in favor of other financial reforms, especially the prohibition of city and county bond issues except when authorized by vote of the local elec

314.

Finance.

5An exception to this statement may be found in the value of an increased circulating medium which the issuance of inherently valueless bank notes, for instance, creates. The value lies in convenience not in property.

The testimony of numerous citizens and officials is found in the Proceedings of the Public Meetings of the Committee to Investigate Assessment and Taxation (1915)-in the office of the state archivist. See also Report of the Committee.

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