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Extra: Dave and Mia Discuss Politics

“All voted,” said Dave as he got back into the car. “Sorry for making you wait. Hotdogs?”

“That would be nice,” Mia said.

He shut the door and started the car, calculating the best route to their favorite hotdog stand. He knew Mia usually wasn’t bothered by waiting and didn’t exactly need it made up for with bribery, but he’d come to enjoy these trips more than he liked to admit, and she didn’t usually see too much interaction with people besides her sister. It was probably healthy for her to have adult conversations every now and then.

Such as now, when she broke the silence with, “I don’t get voting.”

“Well, they count together all the votes, and whoever has the most votes gets to govern the country. That way, the largest possible number of people get to have their way and be happy. Democracy in a nutshell.”

“But most people are nuts.”

She was looking at him in perfect seriousness; he started to chuckle a little. “That’s true. Problem is, the nuts are equally convinced that we’re the nuts. There’s no objective nut-scale to decide whose opinion should count.”

“Of course there is,” Mia said, her usual neutral tone leaning a little towards puzzled and frustrated, like it was obvious. “IQ tests.”

He raised his eyebrows, amused. “To be fair, IQ tests aren’t the most objective science out there. They give wildly different…”

“So make them take many,” she said, still in the same tone of voice. “Average the result over enough different tests to be statistically significant. It’s science.”

He laughed; she didn’t appear to see the humour in it. “Well, that’d be one unpopular decision. Politicians never make unpopular decisions, unless the alternative would make them even more unpopular. That’s just how politics works.”

She nodded reluctantly and looked out the window on her side for a while. “It’s stupid that it works that way,” she said eventually, turning back towards him. “The system should be changed.”

“And how do you propose we do that?”

She shrugged. “I could kill the government,” she suggested after a moment.

He would have done a spit-take, if he’d been drinking anything. As it was it just came out as a choked snort of disbelief.

“You should be president,” she went on. “You’d have the final say on everything. There would stop being elections, and you’d just appoint somebody sensible to replace you before you die. If somebody doesn’t like it, I can threaten them.”

He couldn’t help grinning. “That would make me a dictator, not a president.”

“Okay. That, then.”

He looked at her. She still looked perfectly serious. “Well, I’m flattered you think I’d make a good one, but dictatorships don’t really fly in this day and age.”

She turned towards the window again. “That’s too bad.”

“And, uh,” he began after a short pause. “Neither does the systematic murder of the government. Besides, all the important ones have bodyguards. You’d get shot before you got anywhere close.”

Mia looked back at him.

“And if you did systematically murder the government, you wouldn’t be the one picking the new one. In fact, you’d be put in a maximum-security prison while people campaigned to have the death penalty reinstated just for you. So don’t go trying that.”

She nodded. There was silence.

“Now,” he went on after a little while, “if you want to have a say in politics, you can vote when you’re eighteen.”

“What’s the point?” she said. “Most people are nuts. They’ll still be nuts if I vote. It won’t make a difference.”

“Well, if everyone thought like that, nobody would vote at all, would they?”

There was a pause. “That would be nice,” she said. “Then I could go and cast the only vote.”

He didn’t reply immediately. “Well,” he answered at last, “that’s kind of defeating the point. The idea is everyone gets to vote and have an equal say, regardless of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, social standing, education –”

“But that’s stupid,” she said. “People who believe in things there’s no evidence for, or can’t do simple sums in their heads, or think we didn’t really land on the moon, shouldn’t have a say in anything important.”

He racked his brain for a counterargument she would understand. “Thing is, Mia,” he said eventually, “the moment you give any excuse for discrimination, on any basis, you’re opening windows for other discrimination, and the first people who are going to get discriminated against are Pokémorphs. If you took the vote away from individuals with a lower IQ, or members of organized religion, or everyone who’s ever failed a math test, they’re going to take it from you as well. It’s not a very long path of inference from ‘people must be smart to vote’ to ‘people must be human to vote’.”

She shrugged. “That’s okay. Eight votes wouldn’t make a difference anyway. It’d be worth it for the greater good.”

He raised his eyebrows as he pulled the car to a stop at a light. The thing about debating with Mia was that sometimes her handicap made it actually hard. Usually, people with her kind of utter immunity to the trump cards of most rational discourse – human rights, justice, equality and so on – were also incoherent lunatics who wouldn’t recognize a sound argument if it hit them in the face. Mia could hold an actual line of reasoning in her own little bizarroverse. In a way, it made it interesting.

“See,” he said after thinking a little, “people can revolt if they’re unhappy, even if they’re religious or stupid or conspiracy theorists. If the majority of everyone has their way, there will be fewer people who are unhappy and can revolt than there are people who are happy and would oppose the revolution, creating more stability. But if only some people get to vote, the conclusion might only represent a minority and the unhappy majority will be able to revolt. Dictatorships are even more vulnerable because then, in theory, absolutely everyone except the dictator could be unhappy. With democracy where everyone can vote, revolutions are unlikely.”

Mia listened with interest. “So democracy is because the government doesn’t want there to be revolutions.”

“In a sense, yeah.” He paused. “I mean, you can lose subsequent elections, but it’s a relatively small loss. You’ve lost money on the campaign, but you went into it knowing that risk, and you might win again next time.”

“Whereas if you were a dictator and there was a revolution, you’d probably be killed.”

“Basically, yes.”

She nodded, looking satisfied.

“Or tortured,” she added after a second. “If they hated you enough, they’d want to listen to you scream.”

“Uh,” he replied, glancing at her. “Yeah, I suppose.”

Her expression had turned distant as she stared out the window, pupils wider than usual, mouth in something resembling a contented smile. He tried not to wonder exactly what she was imagining as he prepared to park opposite the hotdog stand.

Page last modified July 14 2017 at 16:44 GMT