The Public Beneficiary
A MAN wanted to build a little house for himself. So he went to one of the new towns, near the city, and said to the Land-owner, "What do you ask for your Boomhurst lots?"
Said he, "Five hundred dollars a lot." "Nonsense!" said the Man. "Why, I can go right over to Specville, at the other side of the city, where the land is just as good as yours, and just as near the centre, and just as well situated, and buy lots for a hundred dollars a lot; and you ask five!" "Well," said the Land-owner, "I suppose you can in Specville. But over there, when you step out of your door, you will step ankle-deep in mud: now, we have good pavements. Over there, when you come home at night, you have to carry a lantern; but we have city lights. There you have to dig a well in the back yard, and haul up your water; but we've got public water-works. There, if your house catches fire, it may burn down; but we've a good fire department. Over there, your children will grow up without education, but here we have a public school. Over there, if somebody annoys your wife when you're away, you have no help; but we have uniformed police. Now wouldn't you rather pay five hundred dollars for my lots, with all these improvements, than pay one hundred dollars over there?"
"Well," said the Man, "I suppose I would."
So he bought his lot; and, being a mechanical sort of fellow, he started to put up his house. He hadn't got more than the second tier of beams up, when some one tapped him on the shoulder. "Got a bill for you." "Bill for me? " says he. "I haven't bought anything here."
"No," says the man, "I'm the Tax Collector." "The Tax Collector? Oh! Well, what are taxes for?" "Why," said the Tax Collector, "they're for public streets and lights and water-works and fire department and schools and police." "Why," said the man, "I paid for those things when I bought my lot." "So you did,' said the Tax Collector. "So you did. But you paid the wrong man, and you'll have to pay it over again to me every year hereafter."'