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Duncan felt sorry for poor President Claire Hansen. As a gesture of courtesy, in this centennial year she was not only President of the United States, but also of Earth. And, of course, she had not asked for either job; if she had done so – or even if she had been suspected of such a faux-pas – she would have been automatically eliminated. For the last century, almost all top political appointments on Terra had been made by random computer selection from the pool of individuals who had the necessary qualifications. It had taken the human race several thousand years to realize that there were some jobs that should never be given to the people who volunteered for them, especially if they showed too much enthusiasm. As one shrewd political commentator had remarked: «We want a President who has to be carried screaming and kicking to the White House – but will then do the best job he possibly can, so that he’ll get time off for good behaviour.»

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