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I read this story back in early/mid 80ies latest. It was most probably not a new story, nor necessary any kind of bestseller, since it was back in the USSR and we didn't have access to most foreign books -- just whatever anyone happened to get across the iron curtain or from restricted section of some central library of the area.

The story is very short, maybe some 3-4 pages. It was set in (near?) future, where a (99% that it was American) man is in his house, starting his day(?) and the house computer (disembodied voice, as far as I remember, but perhaps there was an actual computer to sit at also or perhaps even a robot, but unlikely), reminds him it is time to do his taxes.

So he sets about it, sort of half distractedly. The computer calls him different areas of spending (do not remember which ones, but things like "education", "welfare", "healthcare") and he tells the computer how much money to allocate to each.

I think, at some point one area of spending ("military" or "defense") gets him reminiscing on his son who was killed in a recent war(?) or maybe he is himself a war veteran(?), and when the computer asks him where to allocate the rest of his taxes, he tells it to spend it on "peace".

The computer tries to create a new government spending area/target, and asks him about details -- what peace, where, the man gets emotional and shouts to the computer something like "Peace! Peace on all Earth! Forever!".

The final paragraph then is something like "this was a wish of many more Americans as well. In 2 years(?) their wish came true".

I am not certain on any of particular details, hence the question marks. This is the general impression/memories I have left from reading this story >30 years ago.

I am fairly certain it was a part of an anthology of reasonably hard SciFi stories, but I don't remember the name of the author of this story, nor any other stories in it. Definitely a paperback.

  • It might have been one of the rare American or English published books allowed in country, but more likely it would have been a Soviet selection and publication of American scifi stories -- with stories selected and published without knowledge of (or payment to) authors, according to how much they aligned with the Soviet ideology.

  • The book might have been in English or Russian, but the stories were "Western" (ie. American and possibly English).

  • If it is the anthology I am kinda thinking it might be, it was a comparatively thick white book, ~A5 size (6x8") with some colourful circular drawing on it, which included a launching rocket(?) and title including something like "Selected stories by American & English(?) writers".

Even if it was a Soviet publication, it 99% used a story printed elsewhere earlier, so hopefully it would be possible to recognise the story even if the particular anthology is unknown.

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    I have a strong memory of this one. The protagonist is allowed to specify where his tax money goes via spoken interface to his household computer. He's allowed to add an optional category. He chooses something along the lines of "peace! Ever lasting f-ing peace!". A year or so later it's a done deal. I thought it might be Spider Robinson, but I can't find it. – Dosco Jones Nov 30 '17 at 2:24
  • So, is the ending optimistic (as in achievement of negotiated world peace) or pessimistic (as in mutual total eradication leaving nobody to make war)? – Otis Dec 2 '17 at 5:19
  • @Otis In my memory it is left ambiguous, but my impression was that it was optimistic. – Gnudiff Dec 2 '17 at 7:06
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    If I remember correctly, I ran into this story in a used paperback collection of stories sometime in the mid 80s. In an expansion of the "presidential campaign fund" check box, all citizens are required to allocate their income tax dollars to the areas they believe most important. I've been trying to remember the name and author for a few years myself. – Rik Schneider Jan 30 '18 at 20:26
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    Every few years, I try to find this story again. I've been looking since the mid 90's. I don't know the title or artist, or the story's origin. I can tell you that I'm almost positive I read it in an issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (IASFM). I had the entire run up to 1992 but had to sell it off. If it wasn't in IASFM, then it was in one of the few issues of Analog I sold at the same time. Yeah I know, not much help there, but it gets us one step closer to finding the thing. – Guest Oct 13 '18 at 2:42
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"We, the People", a short story by Jack C. Haldeman, II, originally published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Mid-September 1983. A Russian translation by Владислав Задорожный (Vladislav Zadorozhnyy), titled "Мы, народ", appeared in the 1988 anthology Мир — Земле (Peace — Earth) edited by Владимир Гопман (Vladimir Gopman). (Of course, it might also have appeared in some other Russian anthology, unknown to the ISFDB.)

ISFDB synopsis:

In the near future, citizens are allowed to specify the programs to which their taxes go, with positive results.

The story is very short, maybe some 3-4 pages.

Three and a half pages in Analog.

It was set in (near?) future, where a (99% that it was American) man is in his house, starting his day(?) and the house computer (disembodied voice, as far as I remember, but perhaps there was an actual computer to sit at also or perhaps even a robot, but unlikely), reminds him it is time to do his taxes.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT DAY TODAY IS, MARK?

"Saturday." It couldn't be his birthday. He'd told the desk to stop reminding him of those several years ago.

TODAY IS APRIL 15TH.

"So what?"

THIS IS TAX DAY. WE HAVE TO FILE BY MIDNIGHT.

So he sets about it, sort of half distractedly. The computer calls him different areas of spending (do not remember which ones, but things like "education", "welfare", "healthcare") and he tells the computer how much money to allocate to each.

AID TO DEPENDENT CHILDREN.

Mark was old enough to remember the hungry times, the children who had grown up without hope. "One hundred dollars," he said.

OFF-SHORE DRILLING SUBSIDY.

"Zero." They were almost all gone now, much to Mark's relief.

RE-EMPLOYMENT TRAINING PROGRAM.

"Fifty."

I think, at some point one area of spending ("military" or "defense") gets him reminiscing on his son who was killed in a recent war(?) or maybe he is himself a war veteran(?),

He studied last year's military expenditures carefully. What was the sense in having enough weapons to kill everyone on the face of the Earth six times over? He cut back even farther than he had last year. He made up the difference in veteran's benefits. Being one himself, he had a vested interest.

Vietnam had cut a bloody swath through his family before he was born, but he hadn't managed to escape the oil wars and that fiasco in South America. The jungle had cost him two brothers, a hip and a knee. No amount of aid could bring back his brothers or his friends. It had been such a useless loss.

and when the computer asks him where to allocate the rest of his taxes, he tells it to spend it on "peace".

THAT'S THE END OF THE LISTING, MARK. YOU STILL HAVE A BALANCE OF $795.32. WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO RUN THE SCREEN AGAIN?

"No." The tears were coming again, damn it. He blinked his eyes.

YOU MUST ALLOCATE ALL YOUR TAX MONEY.

He thought of his brothers, and the times they'd had growing up. The days seemed bathed in the warm glow of summer sunshine. They were precious days, gone forever. He knew that every person who had died in any war on any side for any cause had been grieved for, just as he was grieving now. It tore at his heart. All that pain, all that suffering.

WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO RUN THE SCREEN AGAIN?

"No," he said softly.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD AN ADDITIONAL CATEGORY?

"Yes." It was barely a whisper.

READY. ENTER NEW CATEGORY.

"Peace," he said, and his single word floated in the quiet apartment.

The computer tries to create a new government spending area/target, and asks him about details -- what peace, where, the man gets emotional and shouts to the computer something like "Peace! Peace on all Earth! Forever!".

COULD YOU PLEASE BE MORE SPECIFIC, MARK?

"I said peace, damn it," he shouted. Everlasting, forever peace!"

The final paragraph then is something like "this was a wish of many more Americans as well. In 2 years(?) their wish came true".

The cat jumped from his lap at the outburst, and Mark pushed his chair back, leaving the desk. His eyes were still full of tears, and he felt like a fool.

If he was a fool, though, he wasn't alone. On that particular April 15 over two hundred million taxpayers added their voices to his.

By Christmas it was an accomplished fact.

If it is the anthology I am kinda thinking it might be, it was a comparatively thick white book, ~A5 size (6x8") with some colourful circular drawing on it, which included a launching rocket(?) and title including something like "Selected stories by American & English(?) writers".

Hmm. At least, it is a thick paperback:

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  • Excellent, thanks so much! I thought nobody would remember it :) – Gnudiff Oct 13 '18 at 8:38
  • I rather think I read it in the book I wrote about, but it is quite possible I mixed those up.Actually, I should have Mir-Zemle somewhere, will have to find it. – Gnudiff Oct 13 '18 at 8:57

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