Ancient Athens didn't have politicians.

 By Tom Atlee


Few people realize that in ancient Athens – the original democracy from which modern democracies supposedly grew – no one was elected to be a representative. There were no public offices elected by the people. They just didn’t have politicians.*

They had voting, of course, because it was a democracy. But they voted for proposed laws, not for candidates. And they had a Council of 500 (the “boule”) who proposed laws for all the citizens to vote up or down in Athens’ participatory Assembly. Ah! So that’s a powerful role, being able to create the proposals that the people voted on! So how were those 500 council members chosen?

Well, believe it or not, those powerful people were ordinary citizens who had been chosen by lot – by random selection. And Athens’ democracy didn’t stop there. No way! Nearly EVERYONE holding public office or serving on a governing board was an ordinary person who had been chosen by lot. (The only exceptions were top military and financial posts, which constituted about 100 of the nearly 1000 government positions to be filled.)

In other words, Athens – that ancient city-state we consider “the birthplace of democracy” – was governed by randomly selected ordinary citizens.

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