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
Metropolitan Transit Authority.
The two beasts, or corporate entities, as they so
tactfully came to be called, had rather different methods of operation.
Metropolitan Transit Authority, or MTA, exacted a toll from the
bridge crosser. The trolls simply ate him. In any case, the
competition for bridges became quite fierce, and a civil, or rather
war appeared to be in the offing, until a compromise was reached.
was the compromise: the people who used a bridge most would
by ballot whether the bridge would be controlled by a troll or by the
So the city was divided into Bridge Districts, and each Bridge
elected a Bridge Keeper, or BK. Sometimes the BK was a troll.
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
than be masticated and swallowed. The trolls realized that they
a credibility problem. So they thought it through and came up
two really great strategies. The first strategy was to throw a
of money at the problem. This was based on the principle that
were too stupid to live. The second strategy was simplicity
lie a lot. This was also based on the principle that people
too stupid to live. So the trolls launched a massive media blitz,
with TV spots, newspaper ads, and internet banners. They even hit
a catchy slogan. This was it: "No tolls with trolls!"
A typical TV commercial would feature an average human couple
searching their pockets for toll money, while an MTA guy, sporting an
grin and laughing hysterically, blocked their way. "Gosh," says
Average, "I thought I had the toll right here." "Well, they've
the toll every year since the beginning of time!" says Ms.
"It's time for a change," says Mr. Average. "I'm voting
this year!" A sympathetic-looking troll, with fangs filed back and a
business suit, shakes his head sympathetically. "Don't get stuck
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.
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 used to make his living by killing tiny creatures, but he
long since moved on to bigger game. When Thugg realized that a
of BKs were now trolls, he had a brainstorm. He called a meeting
all the trolls.
"Hey," said Thugg. "Let's redo all the Bridge
"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
boundaries so that more of the Bridge Districts have a majority of
who vote for trolls," explained Thugg patiently.
"How?" asked Dork again.
"Look over here," said Thugg, pointing at a map.
district in the southwest is overwhelmingly pro-troll, but this one
in the northeast always elects a really troublesome MTA guy. We
put about 30% of the southwest voters in the northeast district."
"But that's all the way across town from their
protested Glugg, one of the brighter trolls. Thugg cuffed him on
"So, who cares?" said Thugg. "You only worry
stuff like that if your motivation is to represent those people.
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
We can do anything we want to. That's what democracy is all
Dork pondered that for a moment. "Why didn't
MTA do that when they had the majority?" he asked. Thugg
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
the MTA guys, we can dispense with all this voting nonsense.
of time and money."
"So, if democracy is about the majority doing
they want," reasoned Glugg, "what's this thing with no voting
"That will be superdemocracy," said Thugg.
is about me getting to do whatever I want."