The end of the year is suddenly, just around the corner. Are you ready? What have you accomplished this year? What’s left on your list? There’s still a little time.
|AC Young||An abandoned fortress, long since forgotten.||nother Mike|
|Leigh Kimmel||“Taxman” by the Beatles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUim9Jv0y6Q||AC Young|
|nother Mike||The rings in the sky told them they weren’t in Kansas anymore…||Fiona Grey|
|Fiona Grey||Twelve towers were built by the gods…but there is another tower that no one knows exists.||Padre|
|Padre||“Hiding in the shadow of the rose bush”||Cedar Sanderson|
|Cedar Sanderson||Setting up the camping rocket (image prompt)||Leigh Kimmel|
There’s always spare prompts. Always. They are the constant, going on and on…
|Spare||The privacy badger shuffled her way into the classroom. “Listen up!”|
|Spare||It was a funky, chunky, purple monkey.|
|Spare||When an ‘eye-for-an-eye’ has no expiration date…|
|Spare||“NO, I am NOT immortal. Please, do NOT test it. I am simply oddly long-lived. Now, if you try to shorten that, YOU have told me that YOU don’t mind being SHORTER-LIVED. I will feel NO GUILT obliging you.”|
|Spare||When kachinas start dancing in your backyard…|
Ready, set… go. Put your response in the comments, or a link to the response. See you there!
Leigh Kimmel’s ordering cycled round to me this week: “Taxman” by the Beatles
The song is about taxation at very high levels. What if a planetary government operated such a tax system? How could things go wrong?
The history of the Collective Planetary Republic is not a pleasant read. With hindsight the mistakes made by the planetary government that ultimately ensured their downfall were so obvious it is difficult to comprehend how an intelligent person could have possibly made even one of them.
The CPR was founded by a group that believed that unbridled capitalism was the greatest ill that society could be burdened with. (Now, most modern societies agree that capitalism absent a governing morality can go horribly wrong – this group went much further than that.) They imposed a constraint by seeking to ensure that capitalists couldn’t easily amass great wealth.
The income tax system permitted an individual to earn M10,000 (they called their currency the CPR Mark, after an old Earth currency) before any tax was paid. This was reasonably generous, as initially the average salary in the CPR was around M5,000. If anyone earned more than this, the excess was taxed at 95%.
The aim was to ensure that no-one earned significantly more than another – what was the point of paying your staff M50,000 when the government would rake in M38,000, leaving your staff only M2,000 more than if they’d been paid M10,000 to begin with?
Initially things proceeded as the government had hoped. Salaries rarely exceeded M10,000, at all levels of society. The occasional businessman earned more, but the government raked in most of the excess, which they used to pay for planetary defences, government salaries, and the like.
Then someone had a bright idea. What was the point of one government department paying taxation to another government department? The rules were changed, so that the taxation was assumed.
Previously, if a minister had a salary of M50,000, his department had to budget for the full M50,000, and hand over M38,000 of this to the Tax Department. This was the same system as was used for a private sector employee on the same salary.
Under the new system, the minister still had a salary of M50,000, but the department only had to budget for M12,000 of this – the amount that he was actually paid. The tax was ignored as it would have resulted in the government paying itself.
But this had an easily predictable side effect. Government salaries boomed. The minister in our previous example could have his salary increased from M50,000 to M760,000, and the impact on his department’s salary budget would actually fall from the M50,000 under the old system to M47,500 under the new system.
Suddenly holding high government office, or a high rank in a government-employed profession (teacher, nurse, etc.) attracted a much higher salary than the best businessmen could claim. But simultaneously, the government received much less tax income, because it wasn’t paying income tax to itself.
Ministers weren’t prepared to cut their salaries, and they didn’t want to cut the salaries of their friends in high places in the civil service and government-employed professions. So they slashed the salaries of the lowest ranks, imposed a hiring freeze that lasted for up to five years in some professions, and cut spending in any area they could get away with it.
The public weren’t happy. There were mass demonstrations in support of the plebs that had been ill-treated. But the police stayed on the government’s side, helped by a quick pay rise for the lowest ranks. So the government stayed in power.
But the damage to the economy had already been done. Entrepreneurs were already inclined to emigrate as soon as they could, and shift their companies to other planetary systems. With the government shifting to a pay system that left the non-government types as second class citizens, they left the planet in droves, gutting private enterprise as they went. Very few were inclined to try to build a business thereafter – all the ambitious citizens went into the much higher paying government roles.
Long-term this caused the CPR serious problems, as they struggled to keep up technologically. They fell very badly behind in military technology. And their military equipment budget never recovered from being slashed following the pay boom.
Their military ended up being large, but ill-paid and very poorly equipped. Any desire the CPR government had to expand, and impose their ideals on others was quashed by the realisation that their military wasn’t capable of defeating others away from home. They hoped that they’d be given time to fix this, but the government’s finances never recovered.
It was only a matter of time, but eventually a rival power obtained the necessary space to invade. The CPR’s armed forces were no match for their enemy, and the CPR was wiped off the galactic map.
[…] week, I took nother Mike’s prompt of “The rings in the sky told them they weren’t in Kansas anymore…” to a dark […]
[…] You can see all of the prompt responses at More Odds Than Ends […]
Writing stuff out of my system. https://www.cedarwrites.com/2022/11/21/odd-prompts-broken-rules/
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And now mine’s up on my LiveJournal at https://starshipcat.livejournal.com/1246938.html. I’m already looking forward to getting to writing this series of books and getting the scene where it belongs in the larger storyline, so I don’t have awkward summary of what would’ve been shown in earlier chapters (let’s hope this winter is productive for me).
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AC Young pointed out…
An abandoned fortress, long since forgotten.
[of course, it might be a left over from the ancient races, with an AI still lurking inside…]
The survey vessel swept into the next star system, all sensors alert. They had already sent out the standard radio frequency greetings, in as many different versions as the alliance of stars knew. But they really didn’t expect to find anything here.
Meanwhile, in an orbit among the long destroyed remnants of the planet, the abandoned fortress, long since forgotten, sat quietly. The weapons that had protected the planet until they were overcome were warming up, their power supplies long ago replenished, and all repairs done by the automated drones. The strategic planning module observed the intruders, and waited. The tactical planning units advised that whatever these intruders were, they would soon be in attack range. And a surprise attack would be most effective, since they seemed to be blundering ahead without any attack weaponry deployed.
The intel unit was still grinding away at the strange messages the intruders had sent out when they crossed the protection limit, and the weapons fired.
Moments later, the fortress scanned the system and found there was nothing to defend against, again. So it slowly set things back to their standard positions, and waited for something else to come visiting…
[oh, that’s kind of cold and bitter…]
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Fiona Grey prompted me with “Twelve towers were built by the gods…but there is another tower that no one knows exists.” A bit late, but here is a quick blurb. I have no idea what is in the tower or if this will remain canon in the series. But it’s a fun idea.
The tower loomed above him, rising up an obscene distance with its top lost in the clouds. It was stone, but no stone that Drak had ever seen and the blocks fit so closely that he couldn’t slide a knife blade between them.
“What is this place?” he asked, almost to himself.
“I think…” said Vinal. “I think it’s the lost tower of Cwm Gwynydd.” Wonder filled his voice as he gazed up at its white perfection.
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“Few have. It is said that the gods built twelve towers to hold up the sky. Cwm Gwynydd is a thirteenth whose purpose is lost. I have never seen one of the other twelve, let alone this one.”
Drak looked at the cliff face that run up to the base of the tower above him. “Hmm,” he said. “I think I can get up to the foot of it.” His eyes traced a route up the cliff face, noting handholds and places to put his feet. “Pass me a rope.”
Vinal watched in silent terror as his friend scrambled up the cliff. Hand by hand, foot by foot, he spidered his up, seemingly glued to the rocks, pulling himself slowly and carefully, but deliberately to top. Vinal let out the breath he didn’t know he was holding as Drak dragged himself over the top.
A few seconds later, the rope he had carried with him snaked down and Vinal was able to start his ascent. He heaved himself up the rock with the help of the rope, mostly succeeding in not looking down. The heights made him sweat, but before he knew it, the climb was over and Drak was helping him over the top.
The two of them rested for a couple minutes, then began to walk around the tower. About three-quarters of the way around, they found a solid iron door inset into the stone. “So,” asked Drak. “How do we get in?”
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