As you may recall, we last left Jonathan Gullible on a remote Pacific island after his boat was tossed about by a terrific storm. One day …

As Jonathan strode through the town, he immediately noticed a dignified well-dressed man kneeling in the street, trying painfully to walk. Yet, the man didn’t appear to be crippled — just short. Jonathan offered a helping hand, but the man brushed him aside.

“No, thank you!” said the man, wincing in pain. “I can walk okay. Using knees take some getting used to.”

“You’re okay? But why don’t you get off your knees and walk on your feet?”

“Ooooh!” moaned the man, squirming in discomfort. “It’s a minor adjustment to the tax code.”

“The tax code?” repeated Jonathan. “What’s the tax code have to do with walking?”

“Everything! Ow!” By now the man settled back on his heels, resting from his torturous ordeal. He pulled a handkerchief from his shirt pocket and mopped his brow. He shifted his balance to massage one knee, then the other. Many layers of worn-out patches had been sewn on at the knees. “The tax code,” he said, “has recently been amended to level the field for people of different heights.”

“Level the field?” asked Jonathan.

“Please stoop over so I don’t have to shout,” pleaded the man. “That’s better. The Council of Lords decided that tall people have too many advantages.”

“Advantages of tallness?”

“Oh, yes! Tall people are always favored in hiring, promotion, sports, entertainment, politics, and even marriage! Ooooh!” He wrapped the handkerchief around the newest of many tears on his gray pants. “So the Lords decided to level us with a stiff tallness tax.”

“Tall people get taxed?” Jonathan glanced sideways and felt his posture begin to droop.

“We’re taxed in direct proportion to our height.”

Did anyone object?” asked Jonathan.

“Only those who refused to get on their knees,” the man said. “Of course, we’ve allowed an exemption for politicians. We usually vote tall! We like to look up to our leaders.”

Jonathan was dumbfounded. By now he found himself slouching, self-consciously trying to shrink. With both hands pointing down at the man’s knees he questioned incredulously, “You’ll walk on your knees just for a tax break?”

“Sure!” replied the man in a pained voice. “Our whole lives are shaped to fit the tax code. There are some who have even started to crawl.”

“Wow! That must hurt!” Jonathan exclaimed.

“Yeah, but it hurts more not to. Ow! Only fools stand erect and pay the higher taxes. So, if you want to act smart, get on your knees. It’ll cost you plenty to stand tall.”

Jonathan looked around to see a handful of people walking on their knees. One woman across the street was slowly crawling. Many people scurried about half-crouching, their shoulders hunched over. Only a few walked proudly erect, ignoring the sanctions completely. Then Jonathan caught sight of three gentlemen across the street sitting on a park bench. “Those three men,” indicated Jonathan. “Why are they covering their eyes, ears, and mouths?”

“Oh, them? They’re practicing,” replied the man as he leaned forward on his knees to shuffle along. “Getting ready for a new series of tax proposals.”

”’Ken Schoolland is an associate professor of economics and political science at Hawaii Pacific University.”’

”’The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible began as a radio series on KHVH in Hawaii and was later broadcast as a dramatic production in Alaska.”’

”’The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible, A Free Market Odyssey, is in its third, revised and expanded edition, 2001

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