The Null Device

Regime change

Until yesterday, the tiny island of Sark in the English Channel was the last feudal state in the Western world, operating under a regime of rule by a council of hereditary landowners, as it has been since the Elizabethan age. Of course, under the European Convention of Human Rights, this was just Not On, and so, after some prodding from the reclusive owners of a nearby island, the British government pressured the island's council to vote to abolish feudalism and bring in democracy:
Its 600 or so residents are governed by the Chief Pleas, a mostly hereditary body consisting of the heads of 40 farm-owning families and 12 elected deputies of the people.
Sark's new-look legislature will consist of 14 elected landowners and 14 elected residents, with everyone who lives on the island eligible to stand for election after the Chief Pleas voted 25-15 to approve the bill embracing the reforms. Elections - which must be symbolically approved by the Queen - will take place in December.
Of course, not all the locals are happy with their island's democratic revolution:
"It is an enormous leap - a bigger leap than we had wanted. The island was hoping to reform through evolution, not revolution," Jennifer Cochrane told the Press Association. "Feudalism is a great system and has worked very well."
She said Sark's feudalism was misunderstood, pointing out that the Chief Pleas were not oppressive or dictatorial "lords of the manor ... but part of the working community".
One of the concerns raised is that, now that Sark is a democracy, outsiders with no understanding of the island's sense of community could, for the cost of buying farms, end up taking power and transforming the island's culture irrevocably.

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