Ah, taxes. They suck. They were even unconstitutional, until Congress cooked up a Constitutional amendment explicitly permitting the government to tax income. But for the purposes of what I want to talk about today, I’m going to let that go for now. We all have to file taxes or we get Willie Nelsoned. To be fair, the experience has improved. I downloaded TurboTax from Amazon, instead of buying the CD-ROM, although I noticed it was also available on Google Play for Android. I’m not sure I want to do my taxes on a tablet, but hey, choice is good. TurboTax ia also available through the browser, but I’m not sure I want to trust my tax preparation to the cloud. They already know everything about me already, but I’d like to have them jump through at least one hoop to get it. Doing taxes today is easy, but it still isn’t nice. The delivery and automation is 21st Century, but the user relationship is still very 19th Century. That’s what’s in the reticule today.
A representative democracy functions by presenting a mechanism that ostensibly projects the will of the people through popularly chosen representatives. In reality, our system is actually based on money. Which entity funds what elected official’s campaign, directly affects that entity’s commercial interests, as presided over by said official. Furthermore, governmental actions are not inherently driven by votes, but by what funds are provided to support the action. Funding is everything, and so a nominal representative democracy becomes a dollar democracy in less than 200 years, or so go the results of our great American experiment.
At the same time, as we’ve noted on these pages, consumers are experiencing broadening choices on today’s digital shelf. There’s open source software if you don’t want to pay for large branded products like Microsoft Office. There’s Hulu and Netflix if you don’t want to throw your money at cable television. And there’s the Humble Indie Bundle. Granted, it’s not a mass market alternative to $60 games, but the proposition is seductive. More specifically, customers are presented with a curated package of 5 or 6 games. Per the screenshot below, customers decide not only how much they want to pay for the bundle, but also what percentage of what they pay to go to the developers, administration, and a couple of pre-selected charities. I like this. Maybe you see where I’m going.
There’s already a hint of this in the tax process, in that the taxpayer can donate more than what’s owed, in order to fund elections. But this is just silly. Oh, those IRS people! Um, no thank you. However, it’s nice that they’re proving out a mechanism for targeted funding. Let’s take that a step further. Just to be nice, the whole edifice of income taxes, the rules and process of determining what each person owes, all of it may remain in place. However, how it gets spent, shall be resolved by the Humble Indie Bundle checkout system.
For example, let’s say these are the apps that have been curated for you, by the United States government: a) military, b) education, c) healthcare, d) law enforcement/legal system, e) first responders, f) infrastructure, g) agriculture subsidies, and h) retirement and disability. You can decide how much of your taxes you want to go to each of them, just click on the slider, and move it left and right. Whenever you do, the next slider is limited to what’s left. The sliders can be set to ensure certain minimum values the first time as a concession to the entrenched oligarchy. But we the geeks can whittle that away over time. You can also decide how much goes to IRS administration or the charity of your choice. And all of this comes from what you owe. You just slide and click. Like this:
It’s only fair that if we’re the source of the money, that we decide how it gets spent. And all of a sudden, the theater of choice we experience every four years is replaced by direct control over our government, exercised annually.
All those in favor, say “Aye.”
SF: Finally I can attribute my taxes to the noble and righteous cause of zombie prevention. We spend so much money on pointless things like roads and oil – how will any of this matter in a world of slavering maws?
JM: That reminds me, in full disclosure, this is a concept from my second science fiction novel, that I’m currently writing. I’m curious to see what you all think of the idea as it develops in parallel in a fictional context.