Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 1–21

Constitutional choice in ancient Athens: the rationality of selection to office by lot

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10602-011-9112-1

Cite this article as:
Tridimas, G. Const Polit Econ (2012) 23: 1. doi:10.1007/s10602-011-9112-1


Contrary to modern democracies ancient Athens appointed large numbers of government officers by lot. After describing the Athenian arrangements, the paper reviews the literature on the choice between election and lot focusing on representativeness of the population, distributive justice, minimization of conflicts, quality of appointees and administrative economy. It then examines why in drawing up the constitution a self-interested citizen may give up voting for government officials and appoint them by lot. It is shown that appointment by lot is preferred when the effort required to choose candidates is less than the benefit expected from their actions as government officials. It is also found that, given the choice, office motivated candidates may unanimously agree to selection by lot but not to election.


Constitutional choice Ancient Athens Appointment to office by lot Election 

JEL Classification

D70 D72 D74 N40 N43 

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EconomicsUniversity of UlsterNewtownabbey, County AntrimUK

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