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I'm trying to remember a short story in Asimov's or Fantasy & Science Fiction or one of those digest magazines in the late 1990s or early 2000s (when I subscribed -- no later than 2008).

In it, the government imposes a "stupidity tax," and the protagonist calls to challenge it, and it turns out it's an "apathy tax" instead -- it's always waived upon request.

(Alas, no one is thinking of the Dunning-Kruger effect -- the truly smart may think they aren't, and won't request the waiver, while the bold-yet-stupid will plunge ahead and make the request. We were so innocent then. sigh.)

I think that's the whole thing: no dramatic plot or anything else, barely more than a vignette, from what I recall. It might have been a short-short or flash fiction?

I'm pretty sure it was set in the near-future, with just that one tiny change.

I want to know because I semi-refer to "that SF story about an apathy tax" whenever I encourage people to challenge insurance denials: the software seems to be designed to reject most things upon first pass-through, but then (appears to) approve over 2/3 with a single challenge, and 85% with a second one.

I'm just annoyed at my vague citation.

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  • Sounds like it might have been a candidate for Analog’s “Probability One/Zero” column of flash fiction. Dec 11 '19 at 16:11
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    From ISFDb, a listing of all Probability Zero columns in Analog.
    – DavidW
    Dec 11 '19 at 17:54
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    Found it -- DavidW, if you want to make it an official Answer so I can give it the checkmark? It's called "I don't know and I don't Care" by Shane Tourtellotte, 1998, and it is reprinted here: shanetourtellotte.com/IDKAIDC.htm I want to give you the credit because I wouldn't have browsed ProbZero without your link! Dec 11 '19 at 17:58
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    This reminds me of how I've seen a government-sponsored lottery called "a stupid tax." The idea being that the dumber you are, the more money you choose to give to your government in exchange for a stack of (probably useless) lottery tickets, week after week, without learning anything from the experience. In effect, you decide how much tax to pay for being stupid.
    – Lorendiac
    Dec 11 '19 at 18:25
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    Actually, @lorendiac, for people too poor to get a useful bank account, lottery tickets are actually a reasonable way to occasionally cash out into a modest purchase that it would be difficult to save up for otherwise. (Yeah, I was shocked to see a rational reason, and probably not the biggest factor, but it's there.)
    – arp
    Dec 12 '19 at 2:37
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Placeholder Answer until DavidW posts one. He suggested that I look at:

From ISFDb, a listing of all Probability Zero columns in Analog. – DavidW 21 hours ago

And then I found that it was "I don't know and I don't Care" by Shane Tourtellotte, 1998, and it is reprinted here: http://shanetourtellotte.com/IDKAIDC.htm

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