Imagine that tax-free fantasy

A real present: Nevada ranks next to dead last in education funding. Police and firemen are losing jobs. Little money remains for repairs to public roads and sewer systems. Some candidates running for office propose more cuts. What might Nevada look like in a decade or two, if we axed government spending altogether?

A hypothetical future: East Sparks. Half mile from Truckee River. Today, like most days, Jamie Flounder wakes before dawn with her dad, Bill. The 10-year-old girl helps her dad into worn boots for his 8-mile trek to the Wall. She hands him stale toast, food donated to the poor living outside the Wall by charity groups that work and worship inside.

Bill Flounder’s paycheck barely covers rent at the Pair-O-Dice Resort and Casino, a sea of derelict trailers and mobile homes that locals call “Shack City.” It’s a step up from the tents and lean-tos between abandoned warehouses on Glendale. After dad leaves, Jamie takes her bucket to the river and fills it with as much murky water as she can carry. She carries it home, to a rickety ’76 Winnebago repaired with plywood, wire, twine and blue plastic tarps.

In the trailer, her brother Jake sleeps and sleeps. He’s hot, feverish. He budges slightly when she pulls a torn blanket from his chest and washes his face and arms. His skin is gray, eyes vacant. He can’t eat.

Though Bill works at a decent job inside the Wall, he receives no health benefits for his family. No clinics operate outside the Wall—it’s not profitable. Few doctors, nowadays, will venture out without a bulletproof Hummer and a hefty cash deposit.

The Wall. It surrounds Reno from the helicopter pads of elite downtown casinos to the mansions in the northwest hills. It’s 25-feet high, topped with metal spikes that deliver high-voltage shocks to border violators.

Inside the Wall, affluent Renoites send their children to schools like the Sandoval Higher Institute of Technology. Private security guards protect schools, homes and businesses. Citizens enjoy paved roads, electricity and plumbing. If a blaze starts, an Angle & Son Service fire truck zooms up to extinguish the flames, charging the pre-qualified homeowner’s credit account. When sick, those within the Wall’s safe boundaries can afford medical treatment.

In this futuristic tale of Northern Nevada, no government acts as a nanny, forcing citizens to contribute to public services for the community. For some, it’s a dream come true.

For folks like the fictitious Flounders, it’s a grim existence. Jake and Jamie are too young to remember when Nevada closed its public schools. They’ve never seen a fire truck, never dialed 911 when gunfire rang out in the neighborhood.

Bill frets about this as he goes to work, passing through Wall security. He strips and walks through a series of metal/explosive/disease detectors. After his 12-hour shift, he endures another set of detectors—to make sure he takes nothing out except his meager paycheck.

Money is power. Jamie knows her dad keeps a small stash of cash. “I’m saving,” he says, “to send you both to school.” On his own, Bill teaches his kids to do simple math and read. The kids devour books in the early evenings, before it gets too dark to read.

Jamie adores her brother. Alone with Jake in the Winnebago, she decides she can’t stand watching him suffer.

She unearths her dad’s money and stuffs it in her pockets. The horizon is turning pink as she walks west, toward the Wall, to hire a doctor and buy medicine.

But in fiction, as in real life, a 10-year-old girl should not be carrying cash in places like Shack City. Since Nevada closed its prisons, crime has been rampant. That’s why we built the Wall.