Etienne Silhouette was a French finance minister in the 1750s and early 1760s, who is known for his attempts to reduce government debt. He was also responsible for introducing a system of taxation which replaced direct taxes with indirect ones. This system, which was later adopted by most European countries, is still in use today.
Silhouette’s most controversial action was his attempt to reduce the national debt by canceling the interest payments on some of the debt. This measure was viewed as a way of avoiding bankruptcy and was seen as an example of cheapness on Silhouette’s part. The people of France had become accustomed to receiving interest payments on their government bonds and were deeply angered by Silhouette’s decision.
The people also resented Silhouette’s attempts to raise revenue through new taxes and fees. He imposed a tax on salt, which was already very expensive in France, as well as a tax on luxury items such as jewelry and fine art. These measures were seen as an attack on the wealthy classes, who were already heavily taxed under the old system.
In addition to his fiscal policies, people viewed Silhouette as cheap because he did not live extravagantly and instead chose to lead a modest lifestyle. He refused offers of luxurious apartments from Louis XV and instead chose to live in a small house near Versailles with his wife and children. Despite his own frugal lifestyle, however, Silhouette did not hesitate to spend large sums of money on public works projects such as roads, bridges, canals, and fortifications.
It is clear that people viewed Etienne Silhouette as cheap because he sought to reduce government debt through unconventional methods that angered many citizens. In addition, he imposed new taxes that were seen as an attack on the wealthy classes while maintaining a modest lifestyle himself. Ultimately, it is his attempt at balancing the budget while retaining some semblance of justice that earns him the title of “The Cheap Minister.”
Conclusion: People viewed Etienne Silhouette as cheap because he sought out unconventional ways of reducing government debt that angered many citizens; imposed new taxes that were seen an attack on wealthy classes; and maintained a modest lifestyle himself while spending large sums of money public works projects.
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