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Beyond the Pale, pt. four (of seven)

(continued from pt. three)

CubicleSchematic

Source: Sea of Cubicles, Wikipedia

An interesting point about the way plot was supposed to unfold, according to the Notes and Asides at the end of the book was the moral and administrative battle between DeWitt Glendenning and another senior manager in the IRS over the nature of the IRS’s processing power’s thrust. Namely, would the IRS keep using humans for processing tax returns (Glendenning’s “idealistic” view) which was a moral position since it entailed the belief that the IRS is a bastion of modern society, a wall standing between everything we hold dear and the forces of darkness (i.e. tax fraud or evasion); or would it automate more and more replacing people with the then (the novel takes place in 1985) recently emerged computer mainframes with any sort of computing power beyond that of a kindergartner’s abacus? The second view, the view of the unnamed and nebulous senior manager, a shadowy counterpart to Glendenning’s mercurial humanism and dignified charm, is less “moral” because the final goal is to increase revenue for the IRS and eventually the State, much in the way a corporation seeks to increase its revenue for its shareholders, instead of protecting society from freeloaders. Notice the difference: increasing revenue (by any legal means necessary, of course) rather than meting out economic justice and punishing wrongdoers. If someone has hidden a large amount of taxable dollars, the first position dictates that he should not be audited if the audit’s overall cost exceeds the expected revenue. So he will be left free to happily evade taxes, unpunished, even though the IRS, the only agency capable of prosecuting him, knows about the crime but finds it too costly to prosecute. What is funny (in the Wallacian sense of funny, an amalgam of irony, tragedy and laughs), and this is neither stated nor alluded to, at least not in the published part of the book, is that Glendenning’s “humanistic” view will keep giving people jobs that utterly dehumanize them. Tedious, monotonous and unrewarding odes to futile repetitiveness. So it is Glendenning’s humanistic administrative thrust that will feed even more people to a powerful and alienating bureaucratic construct that bundles them into little balls of neurotic tics and turns them into DSM-worthy case studies.

(the fifth part is scheduled to appear on Saturday, 24 September 2011)

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  1. Pingback: Beyond the Pale, pt. five (of seven) « Seven Steps Back - September 24, 2011

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