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“Don’t go taking that document too seriously,” I advised my friend. “Or else next you’ll be talking about the consent of the governed and the universal rights of man. Which is exactly what got the Empire in such trouble to begin with.”

He smiled back and shut off his reader. “I know,” he answered. “Still… Democracy looks like such a good idea, in theory.”

“In theory, it is,” I allowed. “Even His Majesty has said that he’d support it, if it had a better track record. But as things are…”

Nestor nodded sadly and sighed. Democracy had been largely consigned to the dustbin of history due to pragmatic rather than theoretical difficulties. The core problem was that the larger and more complex a society grew, the more central direction and expertise was required to run things. It was impossible for an elected legislature—whose primary skillset by definition had to be an extraordinary ability to win elections—to effectively oversee matters as diverse as monetary policy, environmental regulation, transportation infrastructure, law enforcement, taxes, education, foreign policy, and so many others that the complete list would run to hundreds of pages. Over time the legislators were forced to delegate more and more of the real power to highly-skilled specialists who remained in office and honed their skills for their entire lifetimes, and were also much too busy exercising power to trouble themselves with insignificant, transient affairs like elections. Add in the difficulties of governing a population so widely dispersed that it took well over a year by the best available means to travel from one furthest reach to another, and, well… Gradually the elected bodies faded away entirely, leaving only the bureaucrats. Both our own kingdom and the breakaway Empire could trace their roots directly to the old United Nations of Earth, whose declared purposes had included spreading ‘self-determination’ everywhere men lived. Indeed, to this day both of Their Majesty’s claimed ‘Secretary General of the Human Race’ as one of their minor titles, and most of the Houses could trace their origins to various power-nodes within the so-called ‘Security Council’ nations. In the end, sociologists claimed, the power remained in exactly the same place it’d always been, even back when the commoners had been allowed to vote on the matter. The labeling was more honest nowadays, was all.

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