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Excerpt from The Shining Ones
Book two of The Tamuli
By David Eddings
Empress Gahenas was a Tegan lady of middle years with a severe expression and tightly pursed lips. She wore a plain gray gown, buttoned to the chin, and long-sleeved gloves of scratchy wool. Her hair was drawn so tightly back into a bun that it made her eyes bulge, and her ears protruded from the sides of her head like open barn doors. Empress Gahenas disapproved of everything, that much was clear from the outset. She had come to Sparhawk's study to provide background information on the Isle of Tega, but she did not come alone. the Empress Gahenas never went anywhere without her four chaperones, a cluster of ancient Tegan hags who perched on a varnished bench like a row of gargoyles.
It was a warm day in early autumn, but the sunlight streaming in through the window of Sparhawk's study seemed to grow wan and sickly when Empress Gahenas entered with the stern guardians of her virtue.
She spent an hour lecturing Sparhawk on the gross national product of her homeland in a tone that strongly suggested that she was going to give a test at the conclusion of the lecture. Sparhawk fought to keep from yawning. He was not really interested in production figures or labor costs. What he really wanted from the jug-eared Empress were little details of ordinary life on the Isle to flesh out the series of letters he was writing to his wife - letters which were to be doled out to Ehlana to help sustain the fiction that he and his friends were tracking down ring-leaders and other conspirators who were concealed among the general population.
"Ah..." he interrupted Gahenas's droning monologue, "this is absolutely fascinating, your Highness, but could we go back for a moment to the island's form of government? That really has me baffled."
"Tega is a republic, Prince Sparhawk. Our rulers are elected to their positions every five years. It's been that way for twenty-five centuries. "
"Your officials aren't elected for life?"
"Of course not. Who would want a job like that for life?"
"No one ever develops a hunger for power?"
"The government has no power, Prince Sparhawk. It exists only to carry out the will of the electorate."
"Why five years?"
"Because nobody wants to be away from his own affairs for longer than that."
"What happens if a man's re-elected?"
"That's contrary to the law. No one serves more than one term in office."
"Let's suppose somebody turned out to be an absolute genius in a particular position? Wouldn't you want to keep him there?"
"We've never found anyone that indispensable."
"It seems to me that the system would encourage corruption. If a man knows he's going to be thrown out of office after five years, what's to keep him from manipulating his official decisions to further his own interests - later on, I mean?"
"Quite impossible, Prince Sparhawk. Our elected officials have no outside interests. As soon as they're elected, everything they own is sold, and the money's put into the national treasury. If the economy prospers during their term in office, their wealth earns them a profit. If the economy collapses, they lose everything."
"That's absurd. No government ever makes a profit."
"Ours does," she said smugly, "and it has to be a real profit. The tax rates are set and cannot be changed, so our officials can't generate a false profit by simply raising taxes."
"Why would anyone want to be an official in a government like that?"
"Nobody wants to be, Prince Sparhawk. Most Tegans do everything they possibly can to avoid election. The fact that a man's own personal fortune's in the treasury forces him to work just as hard as he possibly can to make sure that the government prospers. Many have worked themselves to death looking after the interests of the Republic."
"I think I'd run away from an honor like that one."
"That's really quite impossible, your Highness. Just as soon as a man's name's placed in nomination for a public office, he's put under guard, and if he's elected, he remains under close guard for his entire term. The Republic makes absolutely sure that nobody evades his responsibilities to her."
"The Republic's a stern mistress.""She is indeed, Prince Sparhawk, and that's exactly the way it should be."