What's Next?

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Guess what! The Germany economy is stagnating. We are surprised, since, worldwide, so many national economies are booming!

But seriously, folks, things are looking pretty dour for the Deutchers. What to do? Would you be surprised if a solution proposed by German legislators is to inaugurate a new tax? It will be upon a large and popular business in Germany: prostitution.

Fornication/adultery is legal in Germany, if it’s, well, legal. That means that the girls must have regular health inspections, a green card (75% of German prostitutes are foreigners) and, of course, they must pay taxes. Pimping and promoting prostitution aren’t legal, however, although it seems foolish that they are not. Perhaps the politicians just haven’t figured out a way to tax, i.e., legalize, them. Free-lance whoring, sans inspections, and green cards, and off the books, so to speak, is, natrlich, illegal; and such unspeakable offenders are regularly rounded up by the police and sent back to their own countries, where they get a little R&R before returning to Germany to start over again.

Since a number of German cities, such as Berlin and Cologne, already have "pleasure taxes" which apply to casinos and public entertainments, extending that tax to brothels should be as easy as falling out of bed.

There seems, though, to be some sort of nagging inconsistency. Why should prostitution be illegal only if it’s not under government aegis? Why should free-lance prostitutes, sans green card, and health inspections, be arrested and deported, when those in compliance with government regulations are OK? Is it merely by conforming to arbitrary government rules that something becomes acceptable, if not moral? Is any other "industry" so treated?

Well, yes, of course! What sort of business do you think you can conduct in Germany, or anywhere else, that mustn’t be licensed, regulated, inspected, taxed, etc., if it is to be allowed to operate?

If the tax is upon "pleasure," however, how can it be that a couple can avoid it by marrying? Why should married couples be allowed to enjoy, tax-free, what non-married (to each other) individuals must pay the state for? Talk about preferential treatment! So, barring flagrant discrimination, (and would government do THAT?) it is not pleasure, per se, that is being taxed. What, then?

Well, space. Houses of prostitution will pay a daily tax of 5.60 euros per 10 square meters of business space. Inspectors with tape measures will prowl the red-light districts, measuring and calculating. Smaller establishments will be exempt, so such establishments (10 square meters is a small room) just larger than 10 square meters will find it worth-while to slightly reduce their "business space" to 9.9 square meters. The reasonableness and logic of 9.9 sq. meter places paying nothing, while 10 sq. meter places pay 5.6 euros is too obvious and reasonable to concern us.

Well, if logic and reason play any role in government, why not try this: reduce expenses. Rarely do governments ever consider this, and when they do, the expenses they reduce are those most immediately felt by the recipients of government largesse, thus guaranteeing cries of outrage and demands that such inhumane budget cuts cease at once. So, of course, they will.

When the Edsel proved a flop, Ford dropped it. If the automaker had the philosophy and clout of government, it would have kept those production lines running full time, and passed laws requiring citizens to buy the things.

So Berlin and Cologne will probably pass the prostitution extension of the pleasure tax, as a few other, smaller, German cities have already done. The tax revenue thus garnered by those towns has proven disappointing, but that is purely relative. When you put your hand into someone’s pocket and take what he has, all quite legally (because you say it is!) it’s rather petty to be disappointed if the yield isn’t large. There are always other pockets to pick, other businesses to loot, other activities to tax. Who knows, maybe the Berliners will end up paying taxes on beer served in their own homes, or sex with their spouses in their own bed — even if their bedroom is smaller than ten square meters. It may seem strange at first, but with time it will become perfectly natural. The only truly unthinkable thing is that the government shrink its activities to fit its income. THAT would be preposterous!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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