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ABILITY-TO-PAY PRINCIPLE: A principle of taxation in which taxes are based on the income or resource-ownership ability of people to pay the tax. The income tax collected by our friends at the Internal Revenue Service is one of the most common taxes that seeks to abide by the ability-to-pay principle. In theory, the income tax system is set up such that people with greater incomes pay more taxes. Proportional and progressive taxes follow this ability-to-pay principle, while regressive taxes, such as sales taxes and Social Security taxes, don't.

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by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
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Chapter Eleven: Leonardo Da Vinci

The thin, purple-clad Leornian named Issac stood quietly in the newly enlarged opening. He was reluctant to awaken these learners, but they had more learning to do. They must do more learning. He remembered his friend Leonardo saying that learners were supposed to learn. These were learners. They had to learn.

But how to awaken a learner?

Should Issac talk to them, shake them, hit them, or what? He could not recall if Leonardo had instructions on how to wake up a learner. Maybe he had forgotten. Maybe he had never asked Leonardo.

Issac thought it best to try the least violent approach.

He cleared his throat and spoke softly from the opening, "Learners, learners." The learners did not respond. He tried again a little louder. Still nothing.

He entered the structure and edged up to learner wearing the glasses. What was this one's name? Tailor? Tyler?

He touched him gently on the arm. Tyler, still asleep, brushed at this disturbance. Issac touched Tyler's arm more firmly, saying "Wake up learner. You have to learn." Tyler bolted upright, eyes closed. Issac jumped back. Tyler laid back down, never reaching consciousness.

Cali's subconscious was alerted by this activity. She moved. Her eyes opened slightly. She saw a furry creature standing a few feet away. She bolted upright. Issac jumped. Tyler slept.

Cali then remembered that she was not in her college dormitory, but rather in this strange place called Leornia. The furry creature was not her roommate's dog. It was a Leornian locator.

"Oh, hi," she said sleepily, "It's you."

Issac smiled timidly, nodding his head.

Cali crawled on hands and knees over to Tyler, and whacked him politely on the behind. "Wake up, Tyler, we have company."

He sat up once again. He looked around the room, then realizing where he was, he laid back down.

"Wake up, Tyler," Cali repeated, with another whack.

The frog, perched on the edge of the opening, was clearly bored with Tyler's lack of response. It croak loudly once, then flapped its wings violently twice. Tyler sat up one final time. This time he stretched, apparently awake for the rest of the day.

"That was the best sleep I've ever had," he said with sarcasm understood only by Cali. He reached for a fruit from his bag and ate.

"Are you ready to learn?" Issac asked anxiously.

Cali looked at Tyler, and Tyler looked at Cali.

"Not quite," Cali grumbled. "It takes me awhile to wake up."

Tyler nodded, his mouth full of fruit.

"We have someone to help you learn," Issac continued. "Leonardo knows more than the rest of us. A lot more."

"That's very nice," Cali said, still more asleep than awake. She took a drink of her water.

"I will go get him," Issac said as a half question, waiting for approval.

"Give us a few minutes," Cali said.

"I will get Leonardo," Issac left.

"Take your time," Tyler pleaded in his wake, eating his third fruit of the morning.

Cali rose to examine her soiled clothes. She was more accustomed to measuring clothing in 'outfits per day' than 'days per outfit.'

"I feel like a subway restroom," she said, holding her nose. She looked through one of the openings at the pink sky. "You know, it doesn't seem quite as bright out there today."

"You're probably getting used to it," Tyler said as he looked through another opening. "But, you're right, it's not very bright. Must be clouds."

"There aren't any clouds," Cali countered.

"Oh, yeah." Tyler plucked the glasses from his face and searched for a clean spot of material on his shirt, but with no luck. He ran his tongue around his teeth. "What I wouldn't give for a toothbrush and tube of Crest," he said finding consolation with another bite of fruit.

Cali said, "We've got to plan our strategy."

"What do you mean, strategy?" Tyler said wiping his mouth with soiled shirt.

"Well," she said thoughtfully, "We don't have time to let these locators show us everything in their village. They think we came here to learn. We've got to get to the end of the path. We've probably stayed here too long already."

"I know, but we don't want to offend them, do we?"

"No, I suppose we don't, but we really must continue," Cali continued, "You remember what the professor said. Shall I remind you of our recent encounters with assorted beasts? Shall I remind you of the evil professor?"

Tyler nodded his head, then shook it from side to side, unsure which would signify agreement. Before he could verbalize his uncertainty, the cat-frog fluttered its wings. Then, as if signalled by the fluttered wings, two pointed ears poked through the doorway. It was Issac.

"I have brought Leonardo," Issac said meekly, not knowing if he should enter the structure.

"Well hello," Cali welcomed them politely, "Please enter our humble quarters."

Issac edged in with another Leornian. While the students assumed this was another locator, once he was inside they began to wonder. Although the other locators tended to be thin, this one was on the plump side. And while he wore a bright purple top, like the others, his trousers were a faded shade of green.

"This is Leonardo," Issac said by way of introduction.

Cali and Tyler nodded politely. "My name is Cali, and this is Tyler," Cali responded.

Upon shaking Leonardo's paw, Cali asked, "Your name wouldn't happen to be Leonardo Da Vinci by any chance?"

Leonardo nodded his head, "Why yes it is. How did you know?"

"Simple deductive logic," Cali responded. "Everyone here is apparently named after a famous person."

"Oh, really," Leonardo beamed, unaware of this fact. "I suppose the professors named us. That sounds like something they would do." Then he said, "Issac told me that you are learners from the trees and that you have come here to learn."

The students both nodded with some uncertainty.

"This is very unusual," Leonardo continued, "No learners have ever come to the villages. What was your subject path?"

Leonardo's attitude and manner of talk surprised Cali. In fact, she realized he acted much more like an instructor in the trees than the locators in this valley.

"Economics," she answered, "We were both learning economics."

"Ah, yes," Leonardo said, "One of the economics instructors is very good. Now what is his name?" He paused to think for a moment. "I know his name, what is it?" Frustration shaded his expression, but it soon passed. "It's not important. It will come back to me."

He stroked one of his pointed ears.

"Well," he continued, "I hope I can help you learn in this... uh... our village. Please ask me any questions that you have." He frowned, then said. "They've never sent learners to the locator's villages before. There are... er... we have no subjects in our villages. Something must have changed since...." He stroked his ear again. "Well it's not important." He paused again and muttered to himself, "What was his name... Michael?... Marvin?..."

"We do have a few questions...," Cali interrupted, deciding to learn as much as they could, while they could, "...uhm ...there are a few things we would like to know about the village before we finish our lesson and go home."

"Please, ask away," Leonardo chuckled, "I no longer... er... do not charge estoffe."

"Well..." Cali paused, seeking an opening question from the many she had on her mind. "This is a village of... uh... locators? What is it that locators do? I mean, we presume you locate learners, but how?"

"What do locators do?" Leonardo repeated. "We... uh... we locators locate learners from the real world, your world."

"The real world?" Tyler joined in.

"Yes," Leonardo said, seemingly confused. "Your world. The real world. The world of learners."

Cali and Tyler both nodded.

Leonardo continued, "Instructors use locators to find learners from your world who are learning a subject. Once a locator... um.. once we... um... we have located a learner, I... er... I mean... an instructor sends them the learning they seek." Leonardo seemed frustrated as he explained the function of locators. It was as if he knew what to say, but he was not able to put the words together properly.

Cali sorted through Leonardo's rambling statements. "You mean instructors go to the real world, our world, and teach students... or rather, learners?"

"No the instructors do not go to the real world," Leonardo tried to explain.

"Then they bring the learners here?" Cali offered, "Like us."

"No! no!" Leonardo exclaimed growing more frustrated, "That's something different. You were sent to Leornia by your professor to take a lesson. That's different. Learners do not come to Leornia after they are located by locators. Instructors just send learning. That's all. Just send it to them. If learners can not understand a subject then it is the job of locators to find them, and the job of instructors to help them learn. Don't you see?" he pleaded.

Cali offered, "Suppose I'm a learner, and I'm sitting in a classroom in the real world trying to understand economics. A locator will find me in a classroom and tell an instructor. The instructor then sends me some learning. Is that how it works?"

Leonardo nodded, "Yes, that's it, basically."

"But, how do they 'send' learning?" Cali asked. "Is it like mental telepathy? I mean, it's not like the instructors use telephones or email, is it?"

"Mental telepathy?" Leonardo thought, trying to recall the term's meaning. "I guess it's something like that. I'm not sure. We... uh... the instructor's send it straight to the learner's head."

"My word!" Cali exclaimed. "How long has this been going on?"

"As long as I can remember," Leonardo said, searching for a time when this did not occur.

"But I thought the professors did all of the teaching," Tyler protested not quite realizing the historical significance of the discussion.

"We only help the professors," Leonardo explained. "We... er... the instructors provide assistance, a little help along the way."

"That's incredible," Cali exclaimed. "If instructors send us -- the learners -- understanding, why don't they send us everything all at once. We could know all there is to know." The thought of knowing everything excited her for a reason that she could not explain.

"It doesn't quite work they way," Leonardo said, "Learners have to want the learning. If they're don't, then it's never received." Leonardo grew confident of his instructional ability as he continued. His frustration faded. "For example, if you're located while thinking about a subject, but your thought changes before I... er... the instructor can send the learning, then you miss it."

Cali was both awed and embarrassed. She recalled many times that her mind was occupied with a recent date or an upcoming party and not the instructor's lecture. No wonder her transcript had more C's than A's.

Leonardo thought for a moment, then muttered, "Was it Mitchell? No, maybe it was Mason? Yes, that's it, Mason. No, Mason doesn't sound right, either."

Cali swallowed her embarrassment and redirected Leonardo's mind back to the topic at hand. "So, locators find learners for the instructors?"

Leonardo nodded, "That's the way it used to work." He hung his head, trying to recall thoughts from a fuzzy memory. "But that happens very little now. I can not remember... remember the last time I... er... an instructor sent for a locator from this village." He looked over to the other locator. "Do you remember Issac?" Issac shook his head. "No, my friend, you wouldn't remember, would you?"

"Locators aren't doing any locating, are they?" Cali observed.

Leonardo nodded, his mind apparently elsewhere, "No, locators... uh... we have not been used much in recent times."

Cali leaned toward Tyler and whispered, "Sounds like this guy has an identity crisis." Tyler, staring vacantly through one of the window openings, said nothing.

Cali debated for a long moment before asking her next question. "I was wondering about the clothes that locators wear. I assume that locators wear purple and instructors wear green. Is that correct?"

Leonardo nodded as his hands moved noticeable in front of his own green trousers.

"Is there any reason for that?" Cali asked.

"No, particular reason," he said cautiously. "The estoffe used to make clothes is naturally purple. Instructor's clothes are dyed green. I know very little about making clothes. My specialty was in astronomy." He froze for a brief instant when he realized what he had said.

Cali thought she understood Leonardo anxiety with this turn of the conversation. She tried another avenue of questions.

"The estoffe is used to make the clothes?" she asked.

"Yes," Leonardo answered, his uneasiness fading, if only a little. "Estoffe is used to make everything in Leornia. Locators... er... we use estoffe to make clothes, homes, and everything."

"I presume that you make things for instructors?" Cali asked remembering the various factories they had seen earlier.

"Yes, we... uh... we make almost everything the instructors use when we... er... they teach learners on the paths." He paused, his anxiety obvious even to Tyler.

"Leonardo," Cali began very solemnly, "Maybe I shouldn't ask this question, but I feel that I must." She paused. "If you are a locator, then why do you wear green trousers? Don't locators wear purple."

Leonardo slowly closed his eyes, then opened them only to turn his head for a vacant stare through one of the window openings.

"I... uh..." he began, then paused. "I... uh... I haven't been a locator for very long. I... I used to be an instructor. They sent me away from the trees."

He hung his head in shame.

The two students sat speechless. Issac sensed something was wrong, but did not know what.

After a long, painful pause, Leonardo softly said, "They sent me here to the valley. I could not teach any more. I could not send understanding to learners. I could not inform learners along the path. Even the brightness of the valley no longer hurt my eyes. I lost it. And I... I don't know why. I was a good instructor. Now I'm... now I'm a locator. And I don't know if I can do that. I've never tried.

"I'm not the first...," Leonardo continued, "... the first to leave the trees. I will not be the last, either."

"Perhaps we can help you," Tyler offered, "We're on our way back to the trees. Why don't you come with us. We'll talk to our professor. Maybe he can do something."

Leonardo's attitude brightened noticeably, but Cali frowned at the thought of any more delays from reaching the end of the path.

"Uhmhmh, Tyler?" Cali mumbled, shooting Tyler a disapproving look.

Then Leonardo said, "It would do no good. They sent me from the trees because I could not teach. Nothing has changed. There is nothing you can do to help. But, thank you for offering." Leonardo rose, "I should leave. I'm sure you have more to learn... back in the trees."

"No, don't leave," Tyler urged. "Let us help you." Tyler turned to Cali and said, "We've got to help him. If there is anything at all we can go do, we've got to help him before we leave."

"Let's just concentrate on our own problem right now," Cali said in a whisper. "Remember what the professor said?"

"What the professor said?" Tyler repeated, obviously confused.

"Yes...," Cali whispered emphatically. She did not think it wise to share their troubles with Leornian's. "... about going to the end of the path and finishing our lesson as soon as possible."

"How insensitive can you get," Tyler scolded absent-mindedly. "We might be able to help Leonardo, and you're just concerned about finishing some stupid lesson."

"Stupid lesson!" Cali said loudly, forgetting to whisper. "It's not just the lesson, Tyler. Don't you remember our little talk with the professor? We need to get to the end of the path -- right away."

"Yeah," Tyler paused for thought, trying to recall their conversation with the professor, "Well... sure... I know, but..."

He stopped in midsentence when the amphibious-cat, still perched on the edge of one of the openings, fluttered its wings suddenly.

"I wish you would stop that," Tyler scolded the frog. "You're starting to..."

Before Tyler could finish, a timid voice quietly said, "Mr. Martin."

A pair of pointed ears poked slowly around the opening. The pointed ears were followed by a familiar face.

"Aristotle?" Tyler asked, "Is that you?"

Go to: Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not to be quoted without permission of the author.


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