An excerpt from

by Joe Gold

The Law of Averages and the Guilt Tax

The Law of Averages was enacted on the Nucleus a million years ago. It was an early attempt at tax reform, an insurance plan to draw emotional revenue equally from the galaxy's populations. The Law of Averages has a tidy way of equalizing good and bad fortune. Random events create ripples that bounce off far-off ripples and eventually influence everything in Diz Galaxy.

At the time, the Law of Averages was hailed as a great discovery. On the Nucleus, people dropped it into conversation. Mention the most unlikely event, and the immediate response was, "The Law of Averages says that, too, will happen." The common form of consolation over misfortune was, "The Law of Averages will work with you now." And the ever-popular, "It's the Law." The Law was considered the greatest hindsight tool of its time, adopted enthusiastically after a mere thousand years of debate. It assured that everything evens out in the end. Including, of course, the random chance that something extraordinary would happen. Probability was the leveling tool by which the Government kept Diz Galaxy running smoothly.

It was in tribute to The Law that the Government opened the Nucleus casino. Players placed low-rent bets on insignificant sports of less significant planets while less advanced players pounded away at digital-mechanical games, waiting for a fortuitous combination of digits that matched a birth date, an identinumber, any blithely meaningless figure to light up the display. They stared blankly at the digits glowing softly in front of them. Some showed fear of losing under not-entirely hooded eyes. Others had long since become oblivious to the casino, the Nucleus, or any of the rest of the galaxy around them, completely immersed in personal battle with the Law. Odds were that someone would beat the odds, perhaps soon. Perhaps not. Among a few thousand players, there would be an exultant shout just often enough to encourage the rest to continue the struggle against probability.

Up until just three thousand years ago, the Government had taxed anger. But encouraging anger to generate emotional revenue produced bloody results. Bioengineering had to increase the reproductive drives to generate enough new offspring for the species to survive their own murderous nature. The turnover rate was abysmal.

Alphi, a rising young bureaucrat at the time, proposed the Guilt Tax.

Taxing guilt had several advantages. It could immediately counteract the bloody mess left by the anger tax, because killing would generate guilt. It was self-adjusting.

If the population of say, Ursia, yields to Government authority, payments would be minimal. Should the Ursians defy the Government, they feel guilty, and the Government harvests the emotion and converts

it to revenue. Their taxes have gone up. Their expenditure of emotional revenue drains their will to resist, while financing the Government's move to reassert authority. As they fall back in line, they have no further reason to feel guilty. The tax is reduced. Resisting the Government generates guilt, which serves nicely as punishment, penance, and of course emotional revenue.

After only a hundred years of debate, the Guilt Tax was adopted. Alphi gathered the congratulations of the Board. But the transition from anger to guilt tax caused new problems. For all the precalculating and recalculating, the guilt was generating insufficient revenue, leaving the Government caught in a financial crisis. They needed more guilt.

Alphi had another answer, this one good enough to earn him a four-level promotion. Attach guilt, he said, to the most basic drive for species survival, which bioengineering had strengthened to compensate for the losses suffered under the anger tax. Add a tax of emotional pain to the most basic physical pleasure. Add guilt tax to sex.

The proposal outraged the Board. It was only with a tax exemption granted to all Nucleus personnel that the directors, some smiling wickedly, voted yes. Sex and guilt proved a powerful combination; the financial problems were solved.

During temporary revenue shortfalls, the Government would promote local sexual revolutions. In the guise of guilt-free love, they could increase sexual activity That, in turn, generated more guilt, hence more revenue. One unwitting result of the guilt tax was that on Earth, Catholics and Jews paid more than their fair share.

The Law of Averages would take care of them. It always did.

To the Top