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Perhaps the Athenians were onto something… May 9, 2009

Posted by lifejacket in Electoral & Parliamentary Reform, Financial shenanigans.

I’m studying Ancient Greece for a degree course, and read something yesterday in one of the set books that struck a chord with me.

Including jobs entailed by the administration of the empire, there may have been as many as severn hundred official positions in classical Athens, and most offices were held … by boards of several men, all serving one-year terms. Many … were selected by lot. Most citizen males, by the time they died had held some public office at one time or another, and a good many had held several. By diluting power in this way, Athenian voters believed they could inhibit the growth of an identifiable class of permanent officials (what we might call bureaucrats) with interests different from those of the populace at large.

(Pomeroy, S.B., Burstein, S.M., Donlan, W. and Roberts, J.T. (2004) a Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society and Culture, Oxford: Oxford University Press; p.47)

To my mind, both bureaucrats and politicians are “an identifiable class” in the UK today, and it’s been very clear for a very long time that a great number of them – particularly politicians – have interests as far removed from the populace at large as it is possible to get.

Perhaps – given the bloated size of these classes in our society, their stifling effect on personal liberty and on economic growth (political correctness; “red tape”), and the fact that they feel they have an unquestioned right to gorge themselves on the public purse – we should consider the Athenian concept of public service more closely?



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