Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Athenian Democracy

SM Stirling, Island In The Sea Of Time (New York, 1998).

Martha commends Cofflin's handling of the Town Meeting as "'Very Athenian...'" (p. 172), then explains:

"'Aristotle thought about three thousand citizens was the largest number who could meet in assembly and decide issues...we're about the right size for his ideal city-state, aren't we?'
"'Greek to me,' Cofflin grinned." (pp. 172-173)

Poul Anderson's Ythrians, less talkative than mankind, use modern communications to extend direct democracy to a global scale and reach important decisions very quickly, even when they have admitted human beings to the choths.

I think that, with modern communications and education, human beings can move much further in that direction. At present, television merely reports politicians' speeches and opinion polls instead of directly involving the population in discussion and decision-making.

1 comment:

David Birr said...

In a comment on Sean's "Political Legitimacy" post, I cited Terry Pratchett on people being too lazy to favor democracy. "Pterry" also had another zinger on the topic:
“Vimes had once discussed the Ephebian idea of ‘democracy’ with Carrot, and had been rather interested in the idea that everyone had a vote until he found out that while he, Vimes, would have a vote, there was no way in the rules that anyone could prevent Nobby Nobbs from having one as well. Vimes could see the flaw there straight away.”

Nobby Nobbs is ... well, he has his good points, and isn't truly EVIL. But lazy, not especially bright, and not very scrupulous. He's been described as "disqualified from the human race for shoving." An encounter with Nobby will generally leave someone thinking that there really ARE such persons as "the lower orders, the rabble." Not even Vimes, who has difficulty with the concept of a "rightful king," wants NOBBY to have any say in government.

Pterry also had his city-state run by an enlightened despot, a usurper (latest in a series of usurpers), who mused that a democratically-elected leader would have it easier than he, because such can tell the populace that they are the FAULT of the people who elected them.

This usurper retained power despite lacking legitimacy because he, unlike his predecessors, was such an effective ruler that nearly everyone (except a few die-hard aristocrats and idiots) recognized that just about anyone else would do worse. He banned street theater and chained mimes upside-down in a scorpion-infested cell facing a sign that read, "Learn the words," but his subjects insisted he had BAD qualities, too.