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Archduke Joseph II, "Political Daydreams" [Rêveries politiques] (1763)

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As soon as I have accomplished this, I will attack the feudal lords. I will impose on them the double land tax [Dominikalsteuer], along with taxes that have already been suggested in the finance system. I am in favor of them all, because they burden the lords as they do the subjects, and because one can always grant the latter tax reductions. In contrast to this [tax] relief, the subjects must tolerate the quartering of troops, because I believe that troops should remain outside of the barracks, for the advantage of the military as well as for use, which means a profit for the lords, and also for the promotion of the military spirit that all of this imparts to the entire nation.

Because I reduce the revenues of the nobles, I can neither demand nor expect to have a splendid court — but what use is this, anyway? Inner strength, laws, strict attention to the law, orderly finances, a respectable military, blooming commerce, an esteemed ruler — all of that characterizes one of the most significant courts in Europe better than banquets, feast days, sumptuous fabric, diamonds, gilded halls, dishes of gold, sleigh rides, etc. It follows that the one cannot be without the other, and I will no longer require this pageantry of my subjects, no richly set tables, no costly clothing made outside of the country — at most, local embroidery. I will require nothing that could cause the least expense, because to do so would be a folly and an injustice, because one would take away their revenues.

Through the following suggested reduction of the wealth and earnings of the “great,” one will find that the people perform their duties with greater assiduousness; everyone would try to enter the service and therefore put forth greater effort. The young people who know that they will have adequate property at their disposal for their entire lifetimes, meaning that they don’t need to serve the state, are of no use at all; they aspire to do nothing, spend insane sums, make debts, which, because they do not repay them, ruin the poor and the craftsmen who pay taxes. However, if one knew that the only means for living in prosperity was the attainment of an office, namely through one's own industriousness and through actual performance alone, without consideration to recommendations, relatives, and not even the merits of forefathers, because one rewarded the father who served the state well — nothing were more just — but this reward should not burden the state with ne'er-do-wells who have nothing of their fathers but their names. Base everything on individual merit! If this rule were followed without exception, what geniuses would appear, [ones] who are hidden at this hour, either from laziness or because they have been suppressed by the great ones. Everyone would make an effort, because, knowing this, he would have had the goal, since birth, of gaining the possibility of living in prosperity, which he could only accomplish with a salary from his ruler.

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