Trolls 'n' Tolls
                                                                                       copyright © 2003 by Robert L. Blau

    In the dim long ago, there was a city of many bridges.  When people first started building the bridges, it was possible simply to walk from one side of a bridge to the other, with no impediments.  Then - perhaps it was in the nature of bridges - two sorts of beast began to stake claims to these architectural structures:  the trolls and the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
    The two beasts, or corporate entities, as they so tactfully came to be called, had rather different methods of operation.  The Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA, exacted a toll from the would-be bridge crosser.  The trolls simply ate him.  In any case, the competition for bridges became quite fierce, and a civil, or rather uncivil, war appeared to be in the offing, until a compromise was reached.  This was the compromise:  the people who used a bridge most would decide by ballot whether the bridge would be controlled by a troll or by the MTA.  So the city was divided into Bridge Districts, and each Bridge District elected a Bridge Keeper, or BK.  Sometimes the BK was a troll.  Sometimes it was an MTA person.  Collectively, the BKs ran the city.
    In the early days, the MTA had rather the better of the deal.  After all, most people would rather part with a little money than be masticated and swallowed.  The trolls realized that they had a credibility problem.  So they thought it through and came up with two really great strategies.  The first strategy was to throw a lot of money at the problem.  This was based on the principle that people were too stupid to live.  The second strategy was simplicity itself:  lie a lot.  This was also based on the principle that people were too stupid to live.  So the trolls launched a massive media blitz, replete with TV spots, newspaper ads, and internet banners.  They even hit on a catchy slogan.  This was it:  "No tolls with trolls!"   A typical TV commercial would feature an average human couple desperately searching their pockets for toll money, while an MTA guy, sporting an evil grin and laughing hysterically, blocked their way.  "Gosh," says Mr. Average, "I thought I had the toll right here."  "Well, they've raised the toll every year since the beginning of time!" says Ms. Average.  "It's time for a change," says Mr. Average. "I'm voting troll this year!" A sympathetic-looking troll, with fangs filed back and a conservative business suit, shakes his head sympathetically.  "Don't get stuck like these good people," says the troll. "No tolls with trolls!"
    "That's right," said the people. "Trolls never charge a toll."
    "But they eat you," countered the MTA guys.
    "But they never charge a toll," said the people.
    "But they eat you," said the MTA guys.
    "But they never charge a toll ..."
    Then one poor fool came up with a suggestion.  "Hey, we could have free bridges with no trolls under them!  We could vote for someone else entirely.  We don't have to have trolls or tolls!"
    The others looked at him pityingly and shook their heads.  "Of course we can't do that," they said. "We have to choose either trolls or tolls."
    So the number of troll Bridge Keepers climbed.  One day, there were more troll BKs than MTA BKs.
    At that time, the head troll was a brute named Thugg.  Thugg used to make his living by killing tiny creatures, but he had long since moved on to bigger game.  When Thugg realized that a majority of BKs were now trolls, he had a brainstorm.  He called a meeting of all the trolls.
    "Hey," said Thugg. "Let's redo all the Bridge Districts!"
    "Why?" asked Dork, one of the slower trolls.
    "So that we can control more of them," replied Thugg.
    "How?" asked Dork.
    Dang, it was hard to get good help.  "We redraw the boundaries so that more of the Bridge Districts have a majority of people who vote for trolls," explained Thugg patiently.
    "How?" asked Dork again.
    "Look over here," said Thugg, pointing at a map. "This district in the southwest is overwhelmingly pro-troll, but this one over in the northeast always elects a really troublesome MTA guy.  We just put about 30% of the southwest voters in the northeast district."
    "But that's all the way across town from their bridge," protested Glugg, one of the brighter trolls.  Thugg cuffed him on the head.
    "So, who cares?" said Thugg. "You only worry about stuff like that if your motivation is to represent those people.  All we care about is getting control of more bridges.  Get it?"
    "Ah," said Glugg. "But can we do that?"
    "Of course, we can," said Thugg. "We have a majority.  We can do anything we want to.  That's what democracy is all about."
    Dork pondered that for a moment.  "Why didn't the MTA do that when they had the majority?" he asked.  Thugg whacked him upside the head.
    "Because they aren't as smart as I am," said Thugg.
    "Garsh," gushed Dork. "You're my idol!"
    "Then," continued Thugg, "when we've gotten rid of all the MTA guys, we can dispense with all this voting nonsense.  Waste of time and money."
    "So, if democracy is about the majority doing whatever they want," reasoned Glugg, "what's this thing with no voting going to be?"
    "That will be superdemocracy," said Thugg. "Superdemocracy is about me getting to do whatever I want."