After France’s defeat in Canada, Britain remained the only power left in Eastern North America. The colonies were now free to spread over the vast continent and increase their wealth. Therefore, for the British Government, it was natural that the colonists, whose prosperity was increasing, should contribute to British economy. The financial measures affecting trade and the arbitrary taxes decided in London soon became intolerable to the colonists. They have now the opportunity and the financial means of standing on their own feet and managing their own affairs.

Instead of being treated as equal partners, the American colonists were considered by the Prime Minister as second-rate citizens or children :

"This is the mother country. They are the children, they must obey and we prescribe". (William Pitt)

More than a rebellion against patriarchal authority, the War of Independence, was in fact the first modern political revolution. It started with the universal democratic slogan: "no taxation without representation". By rising against Britain the colonists exploded the myth of English liberty while using at the same time the principles that the people of England themselves had established one century before in the Glorious Revolution.

I. Origins of the Revolution

Several circumstances had put a strain on Anglo-American relations in the 18th century.

  • First, Britain merchants manipulated the House of Commons into voting a series of protective acts that were detrimental to colonial economy.
  • Further restrictions were imposed through arbitrary taxation decided in London.
  • Another dissatisfaction came from the costs of British European’s war to which they were forced
    to contribute.
  • 1763: the Royal Proclamation prohibited any British settlement west of the Appalachians, which created a major land problem in the colonies and restricted economic expansion.

So economic and patriotic motivations were closely linked in creating a feeling of rebellion.

II. The insurrection in New England

In May 1765, the Virginia Colonial Assembly voted a series of resolutions to tax the colonists. The latter started to organize themselves into activist groups such as the “Sons of Liberty” led by Samuel Adam. Britain answered by a demonstration of strength and sent mercenary troops to various American cities. Several resistance groups denounced that measure as a hostile invasion.

In March 1770, the Boston”s Sons of Liberty attacked the British local garrison. British soldiers opened fire upon the crowd. This tragic incident, known as the Boston Massacre, is one of the triggers of the War of Independence against Britain.

In 1772, a new tax was imposed was imposed on tea: the Tea Act was interpreted as another demonstration of authority from the part of Britain. A group of Bostonians wearing Indian costumes went on board a tea clipper in Boston harbor and managed to throw several thousand pounds of tea into the sea: the “Boston Tea Party” was followed by severe punishment. A continental congress of the colonies answered by prohibiting British imports and militias were formed to resist British troops. The Loyalists, i.e. the colonists who wanted to remain British were very often badly treated by the Patriots: they were caught, whipped, tarred and feathered to expose their shame.

The first real battle took place in June 1775, outside Boston at Bunker Hill. There, the American volunteers managed to resist and to succeed over British troops for the first time.

III. The Spirit of 1776

In January 1776, the Englishman Thomas Paine published a pamphlet against Britain: it launched the spirit of 1776. His book, Common Sense questions the necessity for America to remain within the British colonial empire:

“Does America be America of shop-keepers and farmers benefit by remaining under British rule ? The plain answer of common sense is no.”

The book immediately sold over 120,000 copies.

In May, the American Congress adopted a resolution inviting the colonists to establish independent State Governments. In June, the delegates for Virginia submitted to Congress a resolution for independence. Therefore, the Founding Fathers appointed a committee to elaborate a Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft in his highly rhetorical style. A revised version was finally approved by Congress on July 4th 1776, by the delegates of all the 13 colonies, except 2 New York representatives who abstained.

IV.The Meaning of the Declaration of Independence

The American Declaration of Independence represents a revolutionary vision both of mankind and its institutions. In its preamble, it insists on the vital necessity of separation and independence, seen as part of the natural evolutionary process inherent to human nature:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to separate…

It also clearly states the principle of “equality” and the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as natural human rights. Yet, Jefferson”s intention of putting slavery out of law as contrary to human rights was not carried into the final version because of the opposition from the Southern states.

The text of the Declaration of Independence consists of a list of criticisms against the British state, represented by the King. The form of this document is the same as the British Bill of Rights of 1689. Moreover, both texts protest against autocracy, religious and political tyranny and unfair representation. The conclusion finally declares the united colonies as “free and independent states”.


Thanks to the Declaration of Independence, a decisive step was taken towards the future, as one of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, stated it: “the river is passed, the bridge is cut away”. But the conflict with Britain lasted for 7 more years before General G. Washington”s victory, thanks to French help, brought about Britain”s final acceptance of the colonies independence at the Treaty of Paris on September 3rd 1783. The 13 states were formerly acknowledged as one nation, whose territory extended from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River. A federal constitution was made public in 1787: it established a model of interstate relationships according to the principle of divided sovereignty. It also set up a republican system in which no branch of the government could exercise any despotic authority over the others. Yet, the major contradiction remained in the nation of the rights of man in the late 18th century: the first modern democracy had 20% of slaves in its population.

Sommaire de la série From the Reformation to the birth of the American nation (1534-1776)

  1. The Reformation in the British Isles
  2. English Expansionism
  3. The Glorious Revolution of 1688
  4. The American colonies : Religion and Politics
  5. Birth of a Nation

I – Les différentes fonctions de l’Etat

A – La fonction d’affectation

L’Etat offre des services collectifs.

Il a un rôle d’Etat-gendarme :

  • défendre le territoire (armée).
  • assurer la sécurité des personnes et des biens (police – justice).
  • faire respecter les règles de la concurrence.

Note : Police, Armée et Justice sont les 3 activités régaliennes de l’Etat.

B – La fonction de répartition (redistribution)

On prend aux uns (cotisations) pour donner aux autres (prestations).

C – La fonction de régulation (stabilisation)

Consiste à agir sur l’évolution économique :

  • politique de relance
  • politique de rigueur

II – Le budget de l’Etat

Est un document comptable retraçant l’ensemble des recettes et des dépenses de l’Etat pour une année. Ce budget est une prévision détaillée.

C’est une loi de finance : le budget est soumis au vote du parlement. Ce budget concerne l’Etat au sens strict du terme (les différents ministères).

A – Elaboration du budget

Le budget est préparé par le gouvernement. Chaque ministère dresse son propre budget : ils font l’inventaire de leurs besoins avec justification.

Le Premier Ministre adresse à chaque ministère des contraintes à respecter pour leurs demandes de crédit.

En cas de désaccord, le choix définitif revient au Premier Ministre.

B – Le vote

Ce budget est ensuite présenté au Parlement : c’est une loi de finance.

Remarque : la loi de finance rectificative ou collectif budgétaire.

Les recettes réelles peuvent se révéler moins importantes que prévu tandis que des dépenses nouvelles apparaissent.

Le Parlement peut donc être amené à voter une loi de finance rectificative ou collectif budgétaire.

D – Le contrôle

Etant donné qu’il s’agit de l’argent des contribuables, de nombreux contrôles sont prévus à tous les niveaux pour s’assurer que l’exécution du budget est bien conforme aux décisions prévues par la loi.

III – Les dépenses de l’Etat

Ce sont les charges budgétaires de l’Etat. Elles peuvent être classées selon leur nature et fonction.

A – Selon leur nature

Les dépenses de fonctionnement sont destinées à assurer le fonctionnement courant des administrations. Elles payent les fonctionnaires.

Les dépenses en capital sont consacrées à l’investissement. Elles servent à moderniser ou accroître le potentiel productif de l’Etat (construction de lycées, travaux d’aménagement du territoire…).

La dette publique regroupe les sommes consacrées au remboursement de la dette de l’Etat.

Les dettes d’interventions et les subventions courantes sont toutes les dépenses faites par l’Etat pour venir en aide aux entreprises.

Les dépenses militaires servent à la défense du territoire.

B – Selon leur fonction


IV – Les recettes des administrations : les Prélèvement Obligatoires (P. O.)

Les prélèvements Obligatoire désignent les impôts et cotisations sociales versées par les agents économiques. Ces P.O. sont versés à :

  • l’Etat : dépenses des différents ministères.
  • aux collectivités locales : dépenses des communes, des départements, des régions.
  • aux organismes de la Sécurité sociale (revenus de transfert).

Taux de P. O. = ( ( impôts Etat et collectivités locales + cotisations sociales ) / (PIB) ) * 100

Taux de pression fiscale = ( Impôts / PIB ) * 100

Taux de pression sociale = ( Cotisations sociales / PIB ) * 100

V – Les impôts ou les recettes fiscales de l’Etat

A – Classement des impôts

Les recettes du budget de l’Etat proviennent essentiellement de la fiscalité. Les actifs, les inactifs, les entreprises et les consommateurs payent des impôts qui sont des versements obligatoires.

Il existe deux sortes d’impôts.

Les impôts directs : sont versés directement par l’agent économique concerné.

  • impôt sur le revenu des personnes physiques (IRPP)
  • impôt sur les sociétés (IS)
  • impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (ISF)

Les impôts indirects : sont supportés par certains agents économiques et versés au fisc par d’autres agents:

  • taxe à la valeur ajoutée (TVA)
  • taxe intérieure sur les produits pétroliers (TIPP)

B – Les principaux impôts

1 – IS – Impôt sur les Sociétés

Est perçu sur les bénéfices des sociétés.

2 – ISF – Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune

La loi de finance de 1982 a instauré l’IGF (Impôt sur les Grandes Fortunes) qui fut supprimé en 1986.

La loi de finance de 1989 a créé l’ISF parce que son rendement était destiné à financer en partie le RMI (Revenu Minimum d’Insertion). Les taux sont progressifs selon le patrimoine net taxable strictement supérieur à un certain seuil d’entrée au 1er janvier de l’année considérée.

Entre 2013 et 2016, les taux vont de 0,5 à 1,5 % et la 1re tranche s’applique à partir de 800 000 euros. À compter du 1er janvier 2016 jusqu’à sa suppression, le seuil d’entrée est de 1,3 million d’euros.

L’impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (ISF) est remplacé le 1er janvier 2018 par l’impôt sur la fortune immobilière (IFI).

3 – La TVA

Est un impôt direct sur la consommation. Il est considéré comme non-redistributif (car toujours le même) et est payé par le consommateur final. Le taux est de 19.6%.

Calcul de la TVA

Prix TTC = Prix HT + ( (Prix HT * taux de TVA ) / 100 )

C – Les autres recettes de l’Etat

L’Etat dispose d’autres recettes :

  • les droits de timbres (carte d’identité, passeport…)
  • les droits de succession
  • les revenus du domaine de l’Etat

VI – Le solde budgétaire

Le solde budgétaire est la différence entre les recettes et les dépenses de l’Etat. On parle de déficit budgétaire lorsque les dépenses sont supérieures aux recettes. Selon les critères de Maastricht, le déficit budgétaire ne doit pas dépasser 3% du PIB.

La dette publique est l’ensemble de la dette de l’Etat du fait de déficits répétés. C’est donc l’ensemble de emprunts contractés par l’Etat pour financer ses déficits. Selon les critères de Maastricht, la dette publique ne doit excéder 60% du PIB.

VII – La politique budgétaire

Est l’ensemble des mesures de la politique économique qui s’appuient sur les recettes et les dépenses du budget.

Du côté des recettes, les règles relatives aux impôts existants peuvent être changées, les barèmes modifiés, des déductions fiscales accordées ou supprimées, des impôts nouveaux peuvent même être créés.

Du côté des dépenses, la politique budgétaire joue sur l’évolution de leur montant global et celles de différents postes : dépenses de personnel, dépenses d’équipement, subventions aux entreprises…

Le niveau du déficit est aussi un paramètre déterminant. Une dette publique élevée contraint fortement la politique budgétaire.

L’Etat supporte de fortes charges d’intérêts qui augmentent ses dépenses, et doit par ailleurs éviter d’accroître encore le poids de sa dette.

Il existe deux positions face à la politique budgétaire : celle des libéraux et celle des keynésiens.

A – La position des libéraux

Les libéraux sont pour un équilibre budgétaire car :

– l’intervention de l’Etat entraîne des dépenses improductives et un endettement

– s’il existe un déficit, l’Etat est demandeur donc augmente ses dépenses, la demande devient supérieure à l’offre et entraîne une hausse de l’inflation, donc une perte de valeur de la monnaie.

Les libéraux sont partisans de l’Etat-gendarme (Police, Armée, Justice).

B – La position des keynésiens

Les keynésiens ne sont pas contre un déficit budgétaire car :

– l’Etat doit intervenir parce qu’il a une responsabilité permanente dans l’économie

– une hausse de la demande de consommation entraîne une hausse des revenus de transferts donc une baisse des impôts

– cela entraîne une hausse de l’investissement en réalisant des investissements publics

Ce déficit pourra se résorber par des rentrées fiscales engendrées par la reprise de la croissance : nous sommes dans le cas d’une politique de relance.

Les keynésiens sont partisans de l’Etat-providence ou l’intervention économique et sociale de l’Etat.

VIII – Les impôts locaux et le budget d’une commune

A – Les 4 impôts locaux

La fiscalité locale repose sur 4 taxes.

La taxe d’habitation est due par les habitants propriétaires ou locataires de tout logement principal ou secondaire.

La taxe foncière sur propriété bâtie concerne toutes les constructions (maisons, usines, ateliers…).

La taxe foncière sur propriété non-bâtie concerne surtout les communes rurales et porte sur les terres.

La taxe professionnelle est due par les artisans, les commerçants, les entreprises et les professions libérales.

B – Structure du budget d’une commune

Le budget communal comprend deux fonctions :

section de fonctionnement : dépenses ordinaires ou courantes

  • dépenses : salaires de employés, achat de fournitures, entretien du patrimoine, intérêts des emprunts, subventions versées…
  • recettes : les 4 impôts locaux, la dotation globale de fonctionnement (DGF)…

section d’investissement : dépenses extraordinaires qui s’étalent sur plusieurs années.

  • dépenses : acquisition de terrains, grosses réparations…
  • recettes : emprunts, dotation globale d’équipement (DGE), vente de terrains ou bâtiments, subventions du département et de la région.

I – Les besoins

Un besoin est un manque, un sentiment de privation accompagné d’un désir de le faire disparaître.

Les besoins sont illimités à cause du progrès technique, de la publicité et de la mode.

Ils peuvent être individuels (besoin d’un vêtement) ou collectifs (besoin d’une troisième ligne de tramway), primaires (se nourrir, se loger, se vêtir : besoins vitaux) ou secondaires (maison à soi, voiture, téléphone). Notez bien que cette classification est relative.

Les besoins sont satisfaits par :

  • des biens : produits matériels de l’activité économique (ex : voiture).
  • des services : produits immatériels de l’activité économique (ex : coiffeur).

Un bien économique est relativement rare : son obtention mérite un effort (ex : voiture).

Un bien non-économique, ou bien libre, est disponible en abondance (l’air). Aucun travail n’est nécessaire pour en bénéficier. Les biens sont de plus en plus des biens économiques.

Un bien durable s’utilise plusieurs fois. Un bien non-durable ne s’utilise qu’une seule fois.

Les biens de consommation s’adressent aux ménages (ex : nourriture), c’est un bien utilisé directement par le consommateur.

Les biens de production concernent les entreprises (ex : matières premières) car ils sont utilisés dans le processus de production.

Les besoins sont à l’origine de l’activité économique.

II – Les entreprises

L’entreprise est un agent économique et une unité de production. Elle produit des biens et services pour satisfaire les besoins.

Biens et services sont vendus sur un marché.

Le but de l’entreprise est de faire des profits en créant de la valeur et en contribuant au processus de transformation par des investissements continuels, ce qui permet d’assurer un “roulement” des fonds. La bonne santé d’une entreprise peut être évaluée avec son taux d’endettement (qui doit être ni trop haut, ni trop bas).

Il existe différents critères de classification des entreprises :

  • la taille : micro-entreprises, PME, grandes entreprises.
  • le statut juridique : entreprises individuelles, sociétés, SARL (Société A Responsabilité Limitée), SA (Société Anonyme), EURL (Entreprise Unipersonnelle à Responsabilité Limitée), SNC (Société en Nom Collectif).
  • le secteur économique : primaire, secondaire, tertiaire.

William Beveridge

William Beveridge was born in 1879 and he became a social worker in the East End of London in 1903. Later, he visited Germany to see for himself the system of social insurance introduced by Bismarck. Beveridge became a journalist, writing mainly on social policy. He was noticed by Churchill (still a Liberal at that time) and in 1908, Beveridge became a civil servant at the Board of Trade. Over the next three years, he worked on a national system of labour exchanges, which were introduced by the Liberal Government of Lloyd George. This measure only covered 2.75m men , one in six of the workforce. Beveridge remained a civil servant for the duration of World War I and after the war, he became the Director of the London School of Economics (LSE). He continued academic work at the Universities of London and Oxford. In June 1941, he was asked to chair an interdepartmental committee on reconstruction problems and on the coordination of existing schemes of social insurance. At this time, the social security "system" was in a confused state : 7 Governments departments were involved in providing various cash benefits to some people. The terms of reference were:

To undertake, with special reference to the inter-relation of the schemes, a survey of the existing national schemes of social insurance and allied services, including workmen’s compensation, and to make recommendations. (Beveridge, Beveridge Report : Social Insurance and Allied Services, 1942)

The Beveridge Report

It had been thought Beveridge would just tidy up the existing schemes but in fact, he came up with a brand-new scheme. In December 1941, he produced a preliminary paper entitled Heads of a Scheme, setting out ideas and assumptions, which were repeated in a slightly amended form in the Report itself:

Three Assumptions : no satisfactory scheme of social security can be devised except on the following assumptions :

  1. Children’s allowances for children up to the age of 15 or if in the full-time education up to the age of 16;
  2. Comprehensive health and re-habilitation services for prevention and cure of disease and restoration of capacity for work, available to all members of the community;
  3. Maintenance of employment, that is to say avoidance of mass unemployment (Beveridge, ibid.)

These words take us a long way from the Means Test of the 1930’s and from private insurance. In Beveridge’s view, benefits should become rights. What was revolutionary was not that the system was based on "insurance", backed by the state, but that it would be universal, signifying and end to all means tests.

However, if insurance was to provide the basis for benefits, then children’s allowances would be paid whether the parents were in work or not. If children’s allowances were means tested, then the low-paid with large families would be better off out of work than working unless benefits were very low. This is the problem of the so-called "wage benefit overlap". It is interesting here to go back to Rowntree’s investigations in 1899 to see how families with many children were often penalised if the wages coming in were relatively low. Since Beveridge and others believed the birth rate was falling and thus the country would, in the long term, suffer from this decline, his ideas were also coloured by a desire to encourage women to have children and not to penalise them for so doing.

Beveridge was not the first to raise the questions of children’s allowances : Rowntree himself and others had advocated their introduction before the War and even in the period 1940-1941, an inter-Party group was formed to accelerate their introduction.

When the Report was published on December 1st 1942, it received massive approval. On the night before publication there was even queues outside HMSO (His Majesty’s Stationery Office) branches to buy it. Sales reached 6 figures before the end of the year. The Home Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Information said the Report was welcomed with almost universal approval as the first real attempt to put into practice talk about the "new post-war world".

Beveridge wages War in his Report on five giants : Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, Idleness and Want i.e. poor health, poor education, poor living conditions, unemployment and poverty. At the beginning, Beveridge briefly explains the reasons why he had come to the conclusions he presents in his Report. He points out that the various schemes in existence have grown piecemeal over the years. Each problem had been dealt with separately : "the first task of the Committee has been to attempt for the first time a comprehensive survey of the whole field of social insurance and allied services, to show just what provision is now made and how it is made for many different forms of need".

Beveridge does not begin with an open criticism of the status quo. The situation in Britain, he says, is "hardly rivaled in other country of the world". However Britain does fall short in the field of medical services "both in the range of treatment which is provided as of right and in respect of the classes of persons for whom it is provided" and in the field of cash benefits "for maternity and funerals and through the defects of its system for workmen’s compensation". Beveridge adds that the "limitation of compulsory insurance to persons under contract of service and below a certain remuneration if engaged on non-manual work is a serious gap". He advocates therefore a closer coordination which would help beneficiaries and indeed cost less in administrative costs.

He then goes on the point out three guiding principles of recommendations, and signals the way to freedom from want. Later, he indicates what he means by the notion of "social insurance" which underpins the Report : "it implies both that it is compulsory and that men stand together with their fellows. The term implies a pooling of risks…". The concept behind it is innovative : universality and national solidarity – instead of each person, each category of worker having a separate system or even no system of cover, all workers are treated in the same way, in exchange for their contributions. The Report then goes into great detail about the proposed level of contributions and is rather technical. The conclusion to the Report, presented immediately before a large section of appendices, is entitled "planning for peace in war". Beveridge points out the likely arguments supporters or detractors, on one side or another, of his Report will make. He answers them by situating the Report in its historical (and historic) context and as a fine war aim to set out, through courage and faith, in a spirit of national unity, as a victory for justice.

The impact of the Beveridge Report

Many people misunderstood the Beveridge Report, thinking it proposed free welfare benefits, when it fact it promised insurance benefits, based on insurance contributions and children’s allowances based on taxation since plainly "you don’t get something for nothing". An illusion was created that in some way, this was going to be a generous gift from the state to all individuals. This misunderstanding was in part cultivated by Beveridge himself. Yet if one looks closely at the text, he refers to providing people with a "subsistence level", with the onus on them to work to improve their lot.

To understand the impact of the Beveridge Report, one must look back to the inter-war years. Then, the question of the myth of national solidarity during the hard months marked by the threat of invasion and the Blitz needs to be considered. Divisions in the country may have forgotten at a time of national crisis, but the basic problems still existed : injustice, inequality, indifference were still prevalent, especially in many industrial cities of the North, Glasgow, South Wales and the East End of London. And even in the superficially ore affluent rural areas, agricultural workers were hardly well-off.

Beveridge’s ideas were in tune with current thinking and that’s the reason for its success. Many thought the Report was going to lead to radical "utopian" social change. Those witnesses called by the Committee also broadly supported radical change. Also, the need to modernise, coordinate, ration and centralise during the War sapped traditional ideas of individuality and a small role for the State. Beveridge had leaked much of what was in the Report, so there was a great expectation. Sometimes his leaks were unfortunate : "[the report] would take the country half-way to Moscow". This guaranteed him and his Report a cool reception from the Government. Nevertheless, Montgomery’s success at the battle of El Alamein had just taken place and this victory, for the first time, over the so-called "invincible Germans", caused church bells to ring out on November 15th 1942, just before the publication of the Report, so it could be said to have arrived at a propitious moment for the country.

Public reaction was enthusiastic but other reactions were mixed. There were some who did not believe in all this talk of a "new Jerusalem", such as Sir John Forbes Watson, Director of the Confederation of British Employers (CBE) and J. S. Boyd, Vice-President of the Shipbuilders Employers’ Federation, who thought the measures could not be afforded. Churchill’s position was perhaps surprising : he was against the Report, preoccupied as he was with winning the War, and thus with foreign policy before home policy. Churchill had defined the terms for the Coalition in the following terms : "everything for the war, whether controversial or not, and nothing controversial that is not bona fide needed for the war". Also, Churchill wondered, with others, if it could be afforded. In his opinion, it was impossible, financially speaking, immediately. Conservatives were unsuccessful at by-elections, as they gave the impression they were against it. He was obliged eventually to make a speech in 1943 modulating his position and claiming the credit for inaugurating a reflection on the question of National Insurance.

A Whitehall Committee was set up to look into the implementation of the Report. Then, White Papers were produced on the subject of a National Health Service, Employment policy and Education, the latter leading to the 1944 Education Act. Therefore, even though it was the Labour Government of 1945 which introduced the Welfare State, preparatory work had been done by Churchill’s Coalition Government, which of course included many Conservatives.

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