On Politicians’ Phone Campaigns

“So I’ll be glad when the whole thing is over,” Mrs. Bowman told us, “so I can stop answering the phone every five minutes.”

“I get those phone calls, too,” Mr. Magundi said. “It’s always some candidate for state representative telling me how honest and aboveboard he is, how his whole record is an open book. But the Caller ID always says ‘Unknown Number,’ which I think tells us more about his real honesty and aboveboardness than any of his rhetoric does.”

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On Taxes

“He says that the Roman system of tax farming was one of the main reasons the empire collapsed,” I explained. “Taxes in the provinces were collected by private contractors, so the whole business of collecting taxes turned into a giant profit-making industry.”

Mr. Magundi looked thoughtful for a second. Then he said, “Did you know that, within an easy walk of this very streetcar stop, there’s an office of Liberty Tax Service, an office of Jackson Hewitt, and two offices of H & R Block? Just a fun fact to remember. Now we can get back to what was wrong with ancient Rome.”