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
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
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