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Clippings by John McCright: GPS will help us find a better way

Last year Addison Independent columnist Eric Davis mentioned in a piece that one way the state could raise money to fund badly needed road and bridge repairs would be to put a GPS device in every car in Vermont and then charge a tax based on the actual number of miles driven each year. It is such an elegant and fair solution — the people who wear out the roads pay to replace them. What could be more fair?
I think we shouldn’t limit ourselves to using the GPSes we put in our cars to simply figuring up tax bills. We could use these global positioning systems to actually reduce the cost of government. Here’s one way: We get rid of the attendants at the entrances to all the state parks and beaches and instead keep track of who comes and goes using their unique GPS identifiers. Every citizen could set up an account in which they’d keep a reserve of a couple hundred dollars, and whenever one’s car or RV entered the park the $5 or $10 fee would be deducted from the account. For those citizens who don’t have enough money in their accounts, the system would alert the state police, who would find the offending vehicle (quite easily done because of the GPS) and ticket the vehicle owner on the spot, or, if they racked up enough fines, take them into custody until a friend or family member pays off the deadbeat’s tab — plus a sizable penalty.
You know, we could save a little more state money by firing many of the troopers and hiring a private firm to take care of this enforcement function; I’m sure there are a lot of contractors who would be willing to make extremely competitive bids to offer the lowest cost collection and incarceration services to the state of Vermont.
The marriage of the GPS system and the individual personal liability debit accounts wouldn’t have to end there. What about those scofflaws who speed or who never really come to a complete stop at stop signs? Our wonderful data collection system, which would be continuously monitoring your car’s location, could siphon off a couple dollars every time you roll through that stop sign. We could make it a fairly small fine, so, if you’re in a hurry you could just budget a couple extra dollars to the cost of your trip for the five stop signs you’ll run and the 12 miles you plan to drive at 10 mph over the posted speed limit. No more worrying about the speed trap over the next hill, no more looking over your shoulder to see if there are any authorities in the area — just relax, drive at whatever pace your wallet affords you, and know that it will all balance out in the giant database co-operated by the state highway officials and the state tax collector (or their assigned subcontractors).
Since we’re monitoring our fellow Vermonters so well, let’s also help model better behavior. For those cars that speed up when they see a yellow traffic light rather than slow down, there could be an automated call to one’s cell phone and a recorded message with a gentle admonishment after the first three or four slip-ups. After that there could be a very slight fine, or, if psychologists tell us it is more effective, the database could send an automated message to your employer or your spouse. Whatever it takes to keep our fellow citizens on the straight and narrow.
But what if you lend your car to your best friend, and your so-called best friend runs some stop signs and tailgates a school bus — how would it be fair to have the superstate debit your personal liability account for his bad behavior? The solution here is obvious — once the good people in Montpelier get us all outfitted with GPS systems in our automobiles, they will begin a program of affixing GPSes to our bodies. It’s really not difficult or even very painful; the technology is getting smaller every year and it is theoretically possible even today. Not only would we no longer need electronic tracking bracelets to monitor criminals out on work release, but we could all benefit from having a gentle hand from above guiding us in our daily lives.
With the new universal health care system offering words of encouragement to all Vermonters to stay healthy, the in-body GPS could keep track to ensure that every individual makes the time to get to his or her workouts at the gym three times a week. Those on a medically prescribed diet would have the added motivation of knowing that if they make even the slightest gesture toward a fast-food drive-through then their life savings could — poof! — disappear. And whose fault would that be?
Fear not, a GPS chip in your body is not really about some overbearing nanny state proscribing your every decision. Oh no. As the technology gets smaller and smarter, you will, if you choose, be able to put individual GPS bots on each and every one of your precious organs — your heart, your lungs (a bot for each), even your brain if you choose. If you ever find your personal liability accounts a little low on funds, you’ll simply sell an organ or two to raise enough capital to maintain the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed. And if that shyster to whom you sold your left kidney or your corpus callosum misses a monthly payment, the bounty hunter you hire through the contractors operating the Vermont Homeland Protection System will have no difficulty locating your personal property and returning it to you, its rightful owner, thanks to our friend GPS.

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