which, in a great empire, has ever been 
drawn from such taxes; and the greatest sum 
which they have ever afforded, might always 
have been found in some other way much 
more convenient to the people
Taxes upon Consumable Commodities
The impossibility of taxing the people, in 
proportion to their revenue, by any capitation
seems to have given occasion to the invention 
of taxes upon consumable commodities. The 
state not knowing how to tax, directly and 
proportionably, the revenue of its subjects
endeavours to tax it indirectly by taxing their 
expense, which, it is supposed, will, in most 
cases, be nearly in proportion to their revenue
Their expense is taxed, by taxing the 
consumable commodities upon which it is laid 
Consumable commodities are either necessaries 
or luxuries
By necessaries I understand, not only the 
commodities which are indispensibly necessary 
for the support of life, but whatever the 
custom of the country renders it indecent for 
creditable people, even of the lowest order, to 
be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, 
strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The 
Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very 
comfortably, though they had no linen. But 
in the present times, through the greater part 
of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would 
be ashamed to appear in public without a linen 
shirt, the want of which would be supposed 
to denote that disgraceful degree of 
poverty, which, it is presumed, nobody can 
well fall into without extreme bad conduct
Custom, in the same manner, has rendered 
leather shoes a necessary of life in England
The poorest creditable person, of either sex
would be ashamed to appear in public without 
them. In Scotland, custom has rendered 
them a necessary of life to the lowest order 
of men; but not to the same order of women
who may, without any discredit, walk about 
barefooted. In France, they are necessaries 
neither to men nor to women; the lowest 
rank of both sexes appearing there publicly
without any discredit, sometimes in wooden 
shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries
therefore, I comprehend, not only 
those things which nature, but those things 
which the established rules of decency have 
rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people
All other things I call luxuries, without 
meaning, by this appellation, to throw the 
smallest degree of reproach upon the temperate 
use of them. Beer and ale, for example, 
in Great Britain, and wine, even in the wine 
countries, I call luxuries. A man of any 
rank may, without any reproach, abstain totally 
from tasting such liquors. Nature does 
not render them necessary for the support of 
life; and custom nowhere renders it indecent 
to live without them. 
As the wages of labour are everywhere regulated
partly by the demand for it, and 
partly by the average price of the necessary 
articles of subsistence; whatever raises this 
average price must necessarily raise those 
wages; so that the labourer may still be able 
to purchase that quantity of those necessary 
articles which the state of the demand for labour
whether increasing, stationary, or declining
requires that he should have.[70] A tax 
upon those articles necessarily raises their 
price somewhat higher than the amount of 
the tax, because the dealer, who advances the 
tax, must generally get it back, with a profit. 
Such a tax must, therefore, occasion a rise in 
the wages of labour, proportionable to this 
rise of price
It is thus that a tax upon the necessaries of 
life operates exactly in the same manner as 
a direct tax upon the wages of labour. The 
labourer, though he may pay it out of his hand, 
cannot, for any considerable time at least, be 
properly said even to advance it. It must always, 
in the long-run, be advanced to him by 
his immediate employer, in the advanced state 
of wages. His employer, if he is a manufacturer
will charge upon the price of his goods 
the rise of wages, together with a profit, 
so that the final payment of the tax, together 
with this overcharge, will fall upon the consumer. 
If his employer is a farmer, the final 
payment, together with a like overcharge, will 
fall upon the rent of the landlord. 
It is otherwise with taxes upon what I call 
luxuries, even upon those of the poor. The 
rise in the price of the taxed commodities, will 
not necessarily occasion any rise in the wages 
of labour. A tax upon tobacco, for example, 
though a luxury of the poor, as well as of 
the rich, will not raise wages. Though it 
is taxed in England at three times, and in 
France at fifteen times its original price, those 
high duties seem to have no effect upon the 
wages of labour. The same thing may be 
said of the taxes upon tea and sugar, which, 
in England and Holland, have become luxuries 
of the lowest ranks of people; and of 
those upon chocolate, which, in Spain, is said 
to have become so. 
The different taxes which, in Great Britain
have, in the course of the present century, 
been imposed upon spiritous liquors, are not 
supposed to have had any effect upon the 
wages of labour. The rise in the price of 
porter, occasioned by an additional tax of three 
shillings upon the barrel of strong beer, has 
not raised the wages of common labour in 
London. These were about eighteen pence or 
twenty pence a-day before the tax, and they 
are not more now. 
The high price of such commodities does