A Parable About the “Peace Tax Fund”

SCENE I: Valley Children’s Hospital, where a new “Philanthropic Boss Burn Unit” is being dedicated. Philanthropic Boss and Iris Enchmann walk back to a waiting limo.

IRIS:What a wonderful thing you’ve done here, Boss. You’re going to go down in history as a great benefactor.
BOSS:Well, thank you, Iris. But I couldn’t have done it without a lot of fund-raising help from you and from our clients.
IRIS:I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, Boss. There’s a couple of our clients who have withdrawn from the agreement. They’ve stopped paying.
BOSS:How’s that? Have you gone over the agreement with them?
IRIS:I’ve reiterated the benefits of the protection we supply, and the importance of their funding in making it continue. And I’ve explained the consequences of not paying, including the possible revocation of Kneecap Integrity Guarantees and of the Having Healthy Children benefit.
BOSS:So what is their complaint?
IRIS:They tell me they don’t want to fund your murder, rape, pillage and plunder campaigns. Apparently it’s against their religion or provokes moral revulsion or something like that — I don’t quite understand what they’re getting at. What’s more… it seems to be spreading. Every month or two there’s another one who won’t pay.
BOSS:I see. Is it cutting into revenues much?
IRIS:Not a whole lot so far, but enough that we’re having to make sacrifices we shouldn’t have to make. And, you know, even if it doesn’t amount to much, it’s the principle that counts. If you let these people get away with it, pretty soon nobody will want to contribute. Shall I call the Goon Squad?
BOSS:No. We never get contributions from anyone after the Goon Squad’s through with them. Hard to squeeze blood from a vegetable, heh heh. I’ve got a better idea.
IRIS:What’s that, Boss?
BOSS:Go back to these malcontents and remind them of all the good things we’re doing — the “we’re saving your money for retirement so you don’t have to” fund, the “Philanthropic Boss Burn Unit and Arthroscopic Knee Surgery Rehab Ward,” the new baseball stadium. Remind ’em that I couldn’t do it without their help and give them my solemn word as a gentleman and a patriot that I will only spend their money on things like that, and I’ll use the contributions from other people for those projects that sensitive, religious types turn their noses up at.
IRIS:Think they’ll fall for it?
BOSS:It’s worth a try.

SCENE II: Later that week, at stately Philanthropic Boss Hall, Iris returns from her rounds to report on progress.

IRIS:Well, they’re not buying it. They don’t believe you when you say you’ll spend their money differently — how do you even know who’s money is whose, they ask. And they don’t trust you to make the fine distinctions their strange religion seems to call for. Can I call the Goon Squad now?
BOSS:Not yet. I think we can finess this one. Next time you go on your rounds, carry two envelopes for the contributions instead of one. When you see one of these religious nutcases, bring out the other envelope. We’ll call it the Conscience Envelope. Make sure it’s decorated with pictures from all the good things we’re doing — the ribbon cutting at the burn unit dedication for instance. And here, I’ll write up a Solemn Declaration:

The monies in the Conscience Envelope are for beneficial, peaceful, soothing, and pleasant uses only and shall under no circumstances be used for rape, for murder except execution after due process of law, for pillage outside of Philanthropic Boss’s domain, or for unauthorized plunder, except in the case of bona fide emergencies. Anyone caught using these monies for any such improper purposes will be subject to a fine of not more than $50,000.

IRIS:And the other envelope will continue to pay for your rape, murder, pillage and plunder campaign?
BOSS:Exactly. You know, I’m going to go the extra yard on this one — tell everyone who puts money in the Conscience Envelope that I’ll have their names engraved right on the walls of the next hospital ward I have built to show the world just how philanthropic and ethical and sensitive they all are.
IRIS:But there aren’t enough of them. You’ll never make enough money to pay for your burn units and orphanages by just taking money from a handful of zealots!
BOSS: Oh, that’s okay. We’ll just take money from the rape, murder, pillage and plunder fund to supplement it. Surely nobody is going to complain about that. And there’ll be more money over all than before, so we’ll be able to hire another accountant to manage the added complexity of the two distinct accounts and we’ll still have enough left over to start on some new projects. You can find us a good accountant, can’t you?
IRIS:The best.
BOSS:Good to hear. Let’s give it a shot.
IRIS: One more thing, Boss: What if this catches on? What if so many people decide to put money in the Conscience Envelope that you don’t have enough money for your rape, murder, pillage and plunder campaign?
BOSS: Well, I just don’t see that happening, Iris. If enough people had those sorts of strange convictions, we’d have bigger problems than where to get our money. Besides, I think we can find ways to get at the money we need no matter which envelope it’s in. You can find us a good accountant, can’t you?
IRIS: The best.
BOSS: Good to hear.

SCENE III. Back at Philanthropic Boss Hall, several days later.

IRIS: Boss, you’re a genius. They fell for it. Except for a couple of hold-outs, anyway.
BOSS: Fantastic.
IRIS: But they want you to outlaw the use of the Conscience Envelope money for all pillage.
BOSS: Splendid. Tell them to elect a representative and I’ll form a committee charged with drafting stronger and more ethical guidelines and we’ll pay them right out of the Conscience Envelope for all of their hard and ethically demanding work. But enough about these clowns — how are our accounts looking?
IRIS: Fantastic. The regular fund is zooming along nicely as always, and now we’ve got some extra in the Conscience Envelope to play with.
BOSS:What to do… I’m thinking of some sort of statue devoted to peace and conscientiousness, maybe a dove or a bust of Gandhi, right in the center of Philanthropic Boss Park. How does that sound to you?
IRIS:Sounds great, Boss. What do you want me to do about the two hold-outs?
BOSS:Goon Squad.
IRIS:I was hoping you were gonna say that.