Trick or Treat, Taxpayer

It’s October 31 again: the day loved by people who like to dress up in silly costumes and wear masks.

All over America this evening, children will be ringing doorbells, offering adults a choice: trick or treat.

Then, a week later, millions of Americans will go to the polls. This scheduling is fitting and proper. The choice is basically the same: trick or treat.

Voters will get their choice of electing people with masks. Not physical masks, of course. Rhetorical masks.

Voters will decide which disguised door-knockers will knock on their doors for the next two years. Rival politicians promise specific groups of voters a large share of any treats collected.

Everyone will have to put treats into bags, of course. The program is called “No door left unknocked.” The larger the house, the higher the percentage of treats demanded. This is called “treating your fair share.”

There are two issues to be settled officially next week. The first issue is whether your preferred would-be representative masked agent will share the lion’s share of the treats with you, or whether the other would-be representative will share the treats with his supporters.

The second issue is the size of the bags. One representative promises smaller bags. He is dressed in a red costume. The other representative promises even larger bags, but only for the largest homes. He is dressed in a blue costume.

We can be sure of one thing: No matter who wins, the bags will be larger next year. They always are. Bad news.

There will be more bad news, beginning next January, after the holiday season has ended. As soon as the person in either colored costume journeys to the headquarters of the Society of Masked Agents to distribute the treats he has collected, he will send out a message to his supporters. It will say something like this:

The supply of treats this year is up, indicating a strengthening economy, but your share of the distribution has been reduced. In previous years, we ran low on treats, so we handed out IOUs to people, promising additional treats in the future. The future is now. We have to honor our earlier IOUs.

But there is very good news. Enclosed are IOUs — your legitimate share of future treats. Just as the Society of Masked Agents has always fulfilled its obligations with respect to past IOUs, so we guarantee that we will deliver on this year’s IOUs. Trust us.

You may recall that you were sent this same message a year ago. And the year before that. You remember, don’t you? I remember mine. It had a tiny notice at the end: Bank of China. Odd, I thought at the time.

Soon, the nation will get ready for Thanksgiving. Its timing is always appropriate: the election results are always in by then. Some people will give thanks because of the success of their masked agents. Others will give thanks for the treats to come, however reduced.

Then millions of thoroughly plucked turkeys will be consumed as a meaningful symbol of America’s heritage of democracy.

Let the holiday season begin!

October31, 2006

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit He is also the author of a free 17-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2006