, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 58-82

A political economy perspective of direct democracy in ancient Athens

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Abstract

Using a political economy framework the paper argues that in ancient Athens direct democracy, absence of political parties and appointment to office by lot were inextricably linked. Direct rather than representative democracy was in the interest of the constitutional framer at the time of the transition to democracy. Deciding directly each policy issue under majority rule diminished the intermediation function of political parties, a tendency possibly reinforced by an integrative ideology of defending the polis. In the absence of political parties to fight elections and distribute rents from office, appointment of office-holders by lot randomized their selection, a process which yielded an accurate representation of individual preferences, and distributed rents irrespective of the private wealth of individual citizens.