March 28, 2013

Tax Love, Not Email!

When the caller ID on my private line lit with a ridiculously long row of sixes, I knew what was up. It had to be Ziggy Morbius calling -- one of the creepier people to cross my path over the years. Thankfully, I've never actually met him, but conversations with him are something between amusing and terrifying, so I'd always taken his calls.

I took another sip of Diet Coke, and went off-hook.

"Ziggy. I know your number. Well, I haven't heard from you in ages," I said.

"Sorry about that, Lauren. Just got of the slammer. You don't want to know the details," said Ziggy.

"You're right about that. So Zig, what's on your mind?"

"Have you heard about that weird Wozniak guy?" asked Ziggy.

"You mean Steve? Apple co-founder Wozniak?"

"No, no, not that weird Wozniak. The email tax Wozniak!"

"Oh. Yeah, I think I have. Berkeley City Council or something, right? Retired nuke scientist or some such?" I asked.

"That's the one! He wants to tax email. Then the money could be used to prop up the USPS or pay for guns and napalm and bombs and such, or whatever."

"It's not going to happen Zig," I said. "Remember the old email tax rumors floating around the net for years? The idea was insane then and it's insane now. Completely impractical. Idiotic. Dumb. You get the concept."

"I sorta liked it," said Ziggy. "After that Berkeley guy brought it up, I saw them on FOX News talking about how great it would be as a way to stop spam, and then I saw a whole bunch of those pundit types on CNN saying it was wonderful, too. And some guy from the L.A. Times supported it, and ..."

"Zig. Get a hold of yourself. First, you shouldn't watch FOX News. It will rot your, uh, mind. As for the email tax ... It's not going to happen. There's no practical way to implement it, or enforce it. Email is really just files being moved from site to site. There are a virtually endless number of ways to transfer files. Oh sure, you could force ISPs to charge customers for accepting some email, just like you could tax people for every byte they use on the Net. If you want to destroy the goose that laid the golden egg, there's a plan for you. I don't want to get technical about this now, but you won't stop people from finding other ways to send email, spammers will find ways to evade any systems you do set up, and honest folks with large information mailing lists that don't make any money would be crushed."

"OK OK, I get it. I get it. So here's my alternative plan. How about if the government taxes love? You know, sex?" asked Ziggy.


"I mean it Lauren. What if they could collect something for every time people, you know, do it?"

"Uh. Well, Zig ... it seems to me that this is basically the same problem as taxing email. I mean, there are lots of ways to, uh, do it. Lots of places where it can be done. I just don't see it, Ziggy," I said.

"So what are you saying, Lauren? Taxing activities that are extremely fungible like email and sex just isn't practical?"

"Where'd you learn the word 'fungible' Ziggy? That's not quite the term I'd use for this, but yeah, you're on the beam."

"Well, I was just trying to be helpful," said Ziggy."

"Hey Zig, if I had to choose between an email tax and a sex tax, I'd go for the sex tax before you could finish asking the question. An email tax would cost me a fortune. At a penny an outgoing message, I figure it could easily be a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. No way I could afford that! A sex tax ... well, these days, one hell of a lot less. But neither is desirable, reasonable, nor practical. Period. Full stop. That's just the way it is," I said. "But I always appreciate your, uh, novel viewpoints on important issues."

"OK kid. I'll keep thinking about this stuff. And Lauren, you should try get out more, I mean, since there's no sex tax yet."

"As always Zig, you're a veritable wellspring of wisdom. Try to stay out of trouble," I said.

"You too," said Ziggy.

Ziggy hung up. I hung up. I returned to my Diet Coke.

Just another day with the Net.


Posted by Lauren at March 28, 2013 01:25 PM | Permalink
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