Base Assumptions

Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Detroit.(Photo by Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Dear Reader (including you incredibly ambitious hydro-podders),

One of my favorite thought experiments is, “What if we found out that dolphins were sentient?” We figure out a dolphin-to-human translator and discover they’re basically as smart and self-aware as we are. Yes, I probably got the idea from Day of the Dolphin and Ed Lutwack’s 1993 essay “If Bosnians Were Dolphins.” What would our societal reaction be? What would the pope say? Would we give dolphins rights? Would nations recruit dolphins as underwater assassins? Would there be truth commissions to deal with the moral problems of all that non-dolphin-safe tuna-fishing? What mischief would the trial lawyers get up to?

But that’s a topic for another day.  

Another of my favorite thought experiments is, “What if voting were mandatory?” This is a more practical question, not least because there are lots of people who support the idea. I’m so intrigued by the idea, I’ve written a few columns on the subject. 

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