No, we didn't shoot them. I'll end that bit of suspense right off the bat.
True, many hands slapped holsters. You could hear the leather being smacked and the snaps snapping in the speechless silence that followed the chief Birkenstocker's announcement that he and his fellow
conspirators v*ters had inflicted a "legitimate" government upon us.
But no. In that breathless moment between shock and revolution, for whatever reason, we did not plug their all-organic, 100-percent natural fiber, sandal-clad carcasses. Nor did we ventilate the yuppie-looking matrons and matroneurs (or whatever else you call the male equivalent) who seemed to be in cahoots with them.
In that half-an-eyeblink of decision-making, we looked to Carty, towering over us in his bald, brawny military authority. And we waited just long enough for him to say, in his best Dirty Harry style:
"Go ahead ... govern us."
The Birkers faltered a moment in their moment of triumph. They knew they were being defied, but they did not grok exactly how.
But Hardyvillians did. The tension in the air deflated like a Bush administration lie. Some of us started laughing. Snaps snapped back into place. The slaps on leather were good natured pats for an old and comforting friend. As the Birkers stood there with questions in their eyes, we all drifted back toward the Hog Trough Grill and Feed (even if it was now the Hogge Troughe Grille and Feede and served food you could actually eat).
Make no mistake. A cloud of anger hovered in the air as we strolled away from our new would-be masters. But it was leavened with amusement.
Imagine it. Governing a Hardyvillian. Just exactly how to you do that?
Back at the Hog Trough, where Janelle-the-Owner awaited us with our breakfast tabs in hand, we mostly just decided to ignore our new civic tyrants.
Yeah, let them "govern us." It'd be about like trying to govern the Gands in Eric Frank Russell's great old story.
The governators couldn't ruin our way of life as long as enough of us stubbornly followed our own consciences. Still ... we knew we'd better keep an eye on 'em.
"Need a volunteer to go to all their meetin's," Carty told us. "Somebody that can observe accurately, take notes, report back. And not get trigger happy," he added.
They looked at me. No way. I wasn't going to torture myself sitting through a bunch of government meetings. Bob-the-Nerd? Nah, he'd get lost in an online game of chess on his laptop and forget to listen to the meeting.
"I'll do it," Dora-the-Yalie declared, standing up. She gazed defiantly around the room, all too aware of how many people considered her to be a part of the problem.
Amid an undercurrent of muttering, Carty questioned her, "How do we know you'd give an honest report? How do we know you wouldn't just report about us to them?"
She took a breath. "Because," she said, "I learned to trade homemade bread to Nat for snow-plowing my road. Because I learned that independent people make good neighbors. Because I am a Hardyvillian. Just. Like. You." Her eyes scanned the room, firmly, insistently demanding trust. Most of us gave it to her. The few skeptics wouldn't meet her eyes.
"Go for it," said Carty. "Report back immediately after their next council meeting."
And so it was that Dora became our right-in-the-open spy and brought back the first news from the
land of King George III Hardyville city council.
"Not much actually happened," Dora reassured us the next week. She was the center of our attention as she sat sipping her French-vanilla flavored coffee (a new items on the the Hog Trough's "barista" menu). "Everybody mostly talked."
We snorted. It figured.
"They talked about making a law to tell the bars what time they have to close." (Hardyville bars close only if the owners feel like it.)
Dora went on. "But they couldn't decide whether it should be midnight, one a.m., or whether they should outlaw liquor altogether." More snorts.
"Then they talked about the problem of our lack of government schooling. But they couldn't decide whether we needed K-5, a middle school, or a highschool first. Some wanted a school board to approve homeschool curricula. But they couldn't decide ..."
"Right," said Carty. "But what did they actually do?"
"They set up some committees to study the feasibility of ..."
"DO, I said," Carty barked. "What did they DO?"
"Well," she blurted in a rush, "they did all agree on one thing. One thing they'd need to do before they could carry out anybody's plan."
"They passed a tax."
The silence was thick as Dick Cheney's skull.
We were not surprised. Oh no, of course we were not surprised. But now we knew the name of the specific demon our new neighbors had evoked upon us.
In Hardyville we believe that there is only one legitimate way for a "legitimate" government to raise money for itself: Hold a bake sale.
Well, that's not strictly true. A yard sale, a door-to-door collection, or a guy dressed in an Uncle Sam suit standing next to a big red bucket outside a Wal-Mart (if we had a Wal-Mart) all are perfectly admirable ways for a "legitimate" government to raise money to do whatever it needs to do. It could even sell subscriptions. Really. To magazines or to its own services, either way.
But then, an actual legitimate government relies on the consent of the governed. And this is one of the differences between Hardyville and everyplace else. In Hardyville, you see, we really mean it.
The second a government shoves its hand into your pocket without your specific individual consent or tries to order a peaceable person to "comply" with some rule or another that you didn't specifically agree to, then -- voila! -- that quick, it isn't legitimate any more.
No consent, no governing.
There can be no such thing as a "fair" tax, either, no matter how many naive fools hope there can. Because every, single tax in the known universe is nothing but protection money: We take your money and use it however we want. If you shut up about it we won't hurt you.
No matter how much they wrap it in the flag, that's what all taxes amount to. Nope, no honest person would operate like that. Nosiree.
You can draw your own conclusions about how many "legitimate" governments that leaves on this over-governed planet. But while you're pondering that, we had a a dilemma.
Now we not only had to ignore the self-elected government of Hardyville. We had to ignore them in some specific fashion.
"What kind of tax?" we asked Dora.
"Just a small sales tax. Five percent."
Mutter mutter mutter, rhubarb, rhubarb.
Dora went on. "It may not be as bad as it sounds because there are exemptions for ..."
"Time," said Carty ...
"... and rebates will make it less regressive ..." said Dora ...
"...for the monkeywrenching," Carty went on ...
"... and nobody will have to do any paperwork except a few store owners," Dora concluded. "That's what they said, anyhow."
"... to begin," Carty ended.
Nat rose and nodded in the direction of the Hog Trough's door. "And," he said, "don't forget the smugglin', neither. This is gonna be fun."
And out he walked with the spring of great, youthful purpose in his octagenarian stride.