It made me sad, because as I’ve mentioned here before, I think that the “Peace
Tax” proposals are worse than useless — they’re actually counter-productive
and if enacted would do significant harm to the conscientious objection
movement. I think that the war tax resistance movement suffers from its
support of such legislation — both because this takes time and energy from
meaningful pursuits and because this advertises the superficiality of the
“conscientious” objection of some of its members.
It astonishes me to see followers of Thoreau behaving as though they really
believed that such an empty piece of legislation could actually provide any
genuine moral cover. But there are many people in war tax resistance circles
who would gladly open their checkbooks and fork over money to the war makers
if they could do so under the cover of a “peace tax” bill.
Rex has a problem. Like many teenagers, Rex loves fast food, and there’s
nothing he’d rather do after a long day of algebra and such than hit Micky
Dees on the way home and get a big mac, fries and a coke.
But when his parents split up Rex’s allowance was one of the things that
suffered. His mom was always the stingy one, and gives him only five dollars
a week, which is almost enough to feed his habit once, since a big mac costs
$3, and fries and cokes are $1.50 apiece.
His dad is more generous with the money, typically, and used to give Rex $40
per week in allowance. But shortly after the divorce he got mixed up in some
sort of California religion and has sworn off meat eating entirely. He knows
that his son spends his allowance money on big macs, so has cut Rex off.
“It’s important that the money I earn and spend not go to end the lives of
innocent cows, or whatever animals they use to make those big macs. I’m sure
you understand, Rex.”
Which Rex doesn’t. But when whining doesn’t work, Rex comes up with a
proposal: He’ll promise not to spend any of his father’s allowance money on
meat — swearing any oath his father demands — if only he can get that
His father relents, and Rex now has $45 dollars to spend every month on his
fast food cravings: $5 that he can spend on anything he wants, and $40 that
he can spend on anything but meat.
Rex troops off to Mickey Dees with $40 in his left pocket and $5 in his
right. He orders his big mac, fries and coke, and pulls three dollars from
each pocket to pay the bill:
|meat money||non-meat money|
|$3 = big mac||$3 = fries & coke|
|($2 left over)||($37 left over)|
But then he stops. He quickly realizes that this only leaves him with two
dollars in his “meat pocket” which isn’t enough to buy a big mac until he
gets another five dollars from his mom next week, so he’s not much better off
than before, except that he can have all the fries and cokes he wants.
But what he really wants is big macs.
A big mac, as you may know if you remember the commercials, is composed of
two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions, on
a sesame-seed bun. Which is a 2:6 ratio of meat ingredients to non-meat
ingredients, meaning that 25% of the ingredients in a big mac are meat. That
suggests, to Rex anyway, that only 25% of the cost of a big mac should have
to be paid from his meat pocket.
|meat money||non-meat money|
|$0.75 = 2 all-beef patties||$5.25 = everything else|
|($4.25 left over)||($34.75 left over)|
That’s more like it! By only dipping in to his “meat money” at the rate of
$0.75 per big mac, he can have his favorite meal almost every day of the
week. It would cost him $0.75 × 7 = $5.25 to do it every day. Rex is only
twenty-five cents away from his goal of daily big macs! How can he do it?
As Sunday comes and Rex’s meat money drops down to fifty cents, an idea comes
to Rex. He borrows a quarter from one of his classmates, promising to pay it
back later in the day with a nickle interest. So at the end of the week,
here’s how he’s spent his money on seven of his favorite meals:
|meat money||non-meat money||borrowed money|
|$5.00 on meat||$36.75 on meals||$0.25 on meat|
|.30 on loans|
|(nothing left)||($2.95 left over)||(paid back with interest)|
Rex is happy: he gets his favorite fast food every day instead of only once a
week. His dad is happy: none of his dad’s allowance money was spent on meat.
The only unhappy ones are the cows, which Rex is eating several times as fast