Humor in Article Based on Erroneous Assumption About Athenian Democracy

A rather amusing article in the Onion makes the mistake of assuming that the Athenian democracy was an electoralist system and therefore subject to the same elitist control:

Anthropologists Discover Ancient Greek Super PAC That Helped Shape First Democracy

ATHENS, GREECE—In a finding that provides new insight into the roots of Western civilization, a team of anthropologists from Cambridge University announced Monday the discovery of an ancient Greek super PAC that helped shape the world’s first democracy. “At the same time Cleisthenes first instituted a representative form of government in Athens, it appears that a group of wealthy citizens and merchants created an organization to influence these new voters by bombarding them with around-the-clock political messages,” lead researcher Daniel Rogers said of the early political action committee, named Athenians for a Better City-State, which is said to have received millions of drachmas’ worth of funding in gold, lambs, dates, loaves of bread, and slaves from Athens’ largest and most influential trade groups. “While the committee was prohibited from coordinating directly with candidates seeking public office, AFBCS nevertheless spent astonishing sums on orators hired to stand in the Agora and recite the negative traits of politicians that the super PAC opposed, as well as on writers who were hired to pen slanderous epic poems.”

Easton: Who would be a member of parliament?

A widespread public view (also prevalent on this blog) is that elected politicians are members of a remote political class, dedicated to pursuing their own interests at the expense of those who they purport to represent:

As the Times journalist Louis Heren said when asked what went through his mind when a politician shared a confidence, many members of the public hear an MP and think: “Why is this bastard lying to me?”

BBC home editor Mark Easton, however, takes a different perspective

Most politicians in my experience are driven by a sense of public service. Some of them advance ideas for improving common well-being that are far removed from my own. But that doesn’t make them self-serving.

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Belgiorno-Nettis: Power to the people, unnamed and unadvertised

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, founder of the new Democracy Foundation, writes in The Sydney Morning Herald:

[M]odern democracy was born of privilege and nurtured through class conflict. Conceived in partisan contest, initially as kings and barons, then as landed gentry in elections, the disenfranchised became chartists, then socialists, and the ultra-disenfranchised became communists. Even though the claims of the working class and the suffragettes have largely been resolved, the saga continues in a fossilised relic of divisiveness. Modern democracy rejected the Athenian ideal of equality, wherein the poor, as much as the rich, were automatically accorded a place in government.

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