A Political Economy Perspective of Direct Democracy in Ancient Athens

Constitutional Political Economy, Forthcoming

35 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2011

See all articles by George Tridimas

George Tridimas

University of Ulster - School of Economics

Date Written: July 1, 2010


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.

Keywords: Ancient Athens, direct democracy, majority voting, political parties, appointment to office by lot, Cleisthenes reforms

JEL Classification: D7, N4

Suggested Citation

Tridimas, George, A Political Economy Perspective of Direct Democracy in Ancient Athens (July 1, 2010). Constitutional Political Economy, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1735331

George Tridimas (Contact Author)

University of Ulster - School of Economics ( email )

Shore Road
Co Antrim, Northern Ireland BT37 0QB BT37 0QB
United Kingdom

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