Brian Cox Day 4

Day 4 – A continuation of the extract below

Below is a continuation of an extract from a new dystopian science
fiction: “The Stratosphere: The Birth of Nostradamus”


     “Carl, I have heard all this before, and it can be summarized in a one sentence
complaint, ‘we are living poor in a land of plenty’. People see things in very
simplistic terms. They see the abandoned houses, the print that can be scrounged,
and they remember another time, when everything was plentiful. The Strat tells
them daily that they are wonderful, that they deserve everything, that they are
perfect in every way. And when hunger or compulsory duties drag them out of
their dream world, and they are forced to confront the real world, they respond like
children, demanding that the real world obeys the same rules as the Strat. Well, the
real world is very different to the Strat. In the real world we have to maintain the
servers that support the Strat, we have to clear the sewage lines, we have to fix the
roads, we have to train a defense force, we have to grow food, we have to treat the
ill, and the list goes on and on and on. It’s not like things are easier either. All of
these jobs actually require more effort per capita than they did 20 years ago. The
reason is simple; the infrastructure has not shrunk with the population.”
     Katharine stopped, and then looked at Carl, searching his eyes for a sense that
he was listening. When she was sure she had his attention she continued.
     “If we don’t take a tax in one form or another, the entire infrastructure that
makes our city possible will crumble. You know this. You must know this. Clearly,
the million people that live here want to live in a city. If they wanted to live in the
Stone Age, then no one is going to stop them from crossing the bridge and leaving.
But they have chosen to stay here. The citizens elected you to make this city
sustainable, not throw it into anarchy.”
     Katharine softened her tone, “I have never been comfortable with the print
tax. We did this because it was necessary; there was no government in place. But
now that government is firmly re-established in our city, it is appropriate that
taxation responsibilities pass back to the government. This does not mean you get a
free ride. PedCom will continue to be compensated for the services it provides in
facilitating trade. Everyone has to pull their weight. My staff will not work for
     Carl was not expecting such a concession. He did not trust Katharine and
suspected she was tricking him. However, rather than be combative, he resolved to
listen. After all, he had nothing to lose.
     “How would you propose to roll this out Katharine?”
     “Whichever way this is done, the infrastructure needs to be maintained, so the
transition cannot interrupt core city business, not unless you want to start your term
with riots. Consequently, the solution has to be an economic one, not a political
one. The print tax is a clumsy and inefficient mechanism for redirecting resources
from personal consumption to social works. Money would be a more effective
     Carl was intrigued. It did sound viable, but he was still hesitant. “This means
the government would take ownership of an unpopular tax.”
     “Carl, there is no such thing as a popular tax. It does, however, mean you will
also take ownership of how much and who will pay tax. Most importantly a
monetary tax will be more palatable to the population. As I said earlier, I never
liked the print tax. It looked and felt like a tribute. It is easy to see how the myths
of ‘hordes of PedCom print’ could emerge. The people only remembered us when
we collected the print, they never saw, or chose not to see, when we redistributed
this print back as payment for infrastructure maintenance. The cost of collecting,
cataloguing, storing, then redistributing this print has been crippling. The savings
you will make by returning to a monetary system will allow you to cut the effective
‘print tax’ rate, without impacting infrastructure maintenance. Not only will you be
seen as the one who brought New York back to the modern age, you will have cut
     Carl could not help but feel respect for Katharine. She delivered a win-win
when it seemed impossible.
     Katharine continued, “It looks like we might be close to an agreement. Shall
we walk?” Katharine led Carl out through the double doors, towards the S-Tell,
and then turned to Carl and said, “There is one more issue we need to discuss.”
Carl nodded. Katharine continued, “You have made some outrageous claims that
we have been hording treasure caves full of functioning print.” Carl felt
embarrassed, and angry that he was about to lose face. But before he prepared for a
counter attack, Katharine said, “I have not raised this to rehash the election. Yes it
was ugly, but I can forgive you for that... once. I think we can form a strong
partnership, and this is why I have to raise the obvious point that you cannot go
back to the electorate empty handed.”
     Once again, Carl was not sure how to respond, and sensed that Katharine was
about to out maneuver him.
     Katharine stopped next to the S-Tell, turned to face Carl and said, “We can
give you the print stores. People will not know that these are not permanent stocks,
but temporary storage, in which the print is held for a week on average, before
being processed as payment for city works. All the public will see is the large
storage facilities, and they will draw the conclusion that these stores are the “print
horde” you promised to deliver. Now, the truth of the matter is you cannot
giveaway this print, not without the city grinding to a halt within a week. People
may want free print, but they also want their garbage removed.”
     Katharine paused before delivering the punch line, “The solution is to use the
print as a guarantee for the new currency. That way you can show people the print
hordes, while at the same time stopping the mob from taking the print. You need to
sell the angle that the new currency guarantees access to a set value of print. Do
you understand?”
     Carl nodded. Katharine continued, “After all your election posturing you will
still need a patsy. Here is how it is going to unfold. You are going to conduct a
very brief investigation before you discover the print horde, and you are going to
find that the top military brass was responsible for the horde, and that they were
planning a military coup. You will immediately install Grant, my Security Team
Leader, as the Commander-in-Chief of the New York Defense Forces.”
     Carl looked gob smacked, “Your Security Guard?”
     “He used to be a Special Forces' Colonel. He is more than qualified to do the
     “But that will leave you in control of the military?”
     “No, it will leave you in power, and with some very strong wins under your
belt very early in your term. Grant is his own man, and a very good man. The
military are lazy and corrupt. They are a problem waiting to happen, and this deal
will solve two problems in one go.”

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