We Vote with Our Feet
by Ryan Drendel
Every four years, for one day, everyone is allowed to immigrate to the country of their choosing. Impoverished families can flee to the greatest countries in the world—whatever that is supposed to mean. When they do this, the politicians they leave behind (who are often corrupt) are punished with fewer taxpayers and a shrinking PPF.
The families that are doing okay (but could be doing better) do research. In whispers, they ask coworkers for advice. They buy the latest edition of The New Immigrants’ Almanac, skimming a few pages before bed. They go where their skills will produce a larger net-benefit for the global economy, or to countries that promise better social services, or to governments run by
people who reflect their current ideologies.
Wealthy families are split. A mother points out that they are already doing well where they live—but her son dreams of learning French. The father’s job can be done anywhere with a wireless connection—but where will their daughter’s best friends live in a few days? Where will their friends be?
Bhutan is all the rage right now. It is a safe bet, for sure, but it’s still a bet. Immigration decisions are remade and abandoned during the week that proceeds the Big Day. Last-minute exoduses spawn when the right rumor circulates through the right subdivisions. For this reason, the day before the Big Day is always filled with breaking news, and the pundits in each country
overlap like an eclipse. Regardless of political allegiance, they tell the same sensational myths about the places and people outside of their broadcast radii.
All this has fundamentally changed how some markets work. Entrepreneurial language instructors, for example, must predict which country will receive the most immigrants (of the various countries that speak the language they instruct). Then, they must follow. The federal governments now contract public relations specialists, who advise them to sign international treaties and ecological agreements, for the same reasons that cigarette companies sponsor cancer research. By implementing late booking and cancelation fees, the airlines make a killing.
No—please do not ask how the impoverished families afford to immigrate, or inquire into the physical logistics of their journey. Do not ask what the families that are doing okay (but could be doing better) are losing by leaving their home—which they will always, eventually do. And do not wonder whether the wealthy families will ever really be happy.
Just be happy: that every family, everywhere, every four years, is given a choice.
This is what Delawarean farmers must tell themselves this week. They are dreaming of living in the mountains that surround Machu Picchu—but the only Peruvian city they’ve heard of is Lima, and they’re pretty sure you can’t actually grow lima beans there, and that is the only plant they’ve ever sown.
This week, all the government employees remind themselves that they will enjoy a great pension. They just have to stay.
No matter how much she promises, the Prime Minister of New Zealand cannot keep anyone happy for very long. New constituents arrive every four years (most of them impoverished), and she gives them all that she can, but they always leave her eventually. This is why she knows that marriage counseling won’t work. Should she blame them, for wanting to leave? She would run away too, if she wouldn’t think of her country, filled with sheep, whenever a coworker gave her wool socks for Christmas.
She knows her partner would be happier in Delaware. Her partner would be happier anywhere without her. The Prime Minister cannot leave her stress at the office. She blurts her every worry out loud, in bed, after the lights have been off for an hour. Can we fit more people on our islands if the water continues to rise? Would it make things better or worse, if we cut down some trees to make room for more people? When they come, should we treat them like guests, or teach them like children? What do I say to the corporations and wealthy families who are scoffing “There goes my country,” and threatening to leave?
“No—I think your partner would be happier if you stopped trying to answer all of the world’s problems.” The counselor grins before saying it. “You’re only one person, you know.” Their English is broken.
The Prime Minister knows that the questions she poses need to be posed. Yes, she is physically just one person, but the Prime Minister does not always feel like that. Like when her partner rolls over and responds to her questions by playing footsie under the bed sheets; then the Prime Minister feels like more. When her partner asks Why are your feet always so frozen? and squeezes them tight, trying to lullaby them lukewarm, while they wait in the dark for another Big Day to pass over their home; then the Prime Minister feels crushed. Her partner is too patient. Her partner is in pain. The Prime Minister of New Zealand feels a million pairs of feet standing
atop her own. She feels like a rusting, sun-bleached diving board, and everyone is looking to the lifeguard tower. They’re waiting for permission. They are ready to leap.
Ryan Drendel studies English and Spanish at Missouri Southern State University. His work can be found in Scribendi and Fearsome Critters. He is required by law to wear glasses when he drives.