The Principle of Rotation

Let me share part of the section called “The Principle of Sortition” in E. S. Staveley’s 1972 book, Greek and Roman Voting and Elections. In spite of its title, the section might better have been titled, “The principle of rotation,” since Staveley argues that rotation in Athens was “more fundamental by far” than sortition. I am not an academic, and I would be interested in hearing what the reception was for Staveley’s thesis among his colleagues. Only a few reviews of the book are available to me, and they seem to have been written by specialists in Roman rather than Greek politics. He seems to be shooting across their bow. Was anybody listening?

It certainly stands to reason mathematically that the more posts are available only once in a lifetime, and the shorter their term limit, the more rotation would become the operating principle. This would set up what the Romans later would call a Cursus Honorum, a career trajectory where the average Athenian would gain active experience in every aspect of local governance, from finance to foreign policy. Unlike the Cursus Honorum, though, the order or life stage in which the citizen held a position mattered less than variety of exposure to various workshops in what Pericles called the “school of Athens.”

Today we think of sortition in terms of obligatory service on a jury, and it is true that the introduction of misthophoria, or paid positions, allowed even the landless poor to participate fully on an equal basis, to such an extent that public service could be made obligatory. A salary, though, would be small incentive for the large (by our standards) class of zeugitai or yeoman farmers, who had to put forth great, though seasonal, effort to work hereditary plots. As Hansen points out in The Other Greeks, working one’s own land is demanding and absorbing, and it would take a great deal to attract zeugitai into the city. Even with the help of slave labour, these voluntary Athenian agrarians would have been looking in their public service for more than a little extra cash in hand. Indeed, since there is evidence that farmers practiced crop rotation in order to relieve overworked fields, the idea of rotated public service positions may have seemed an eminently natural way to equitably distribute jobs, some of which inevitably would have been more appealing than others.

In our time, rotation might be easier to introduce than sortition, without need for traumatic constitutional amendments. For example, in the American Senate and Congress,  membership in some committees is more highly sought after than others. Some system of rotation among committees would broaden the career experience of each senator, and term limits would increase turnover, spreading that more holistic experience into the general population.


The extensive use which the Athenians made of sortition has led to a wide acceptance of the view that the principle of the lot was itself the very corner-stone of radical democracy and embraced by the Athenians on purely doctrinaire grounds. The object, we are asked to believe, was to ensure mediocrity in office. In the words of one writer, the first stage was the introduction of clerosis ek procriton (lot of the qualified) — a hybrid invented by those anxious to substitute sortition for election but not prepared to press the change to its logical conclusion. By increasing the number of magistrates later radicals were able to limit the competence of each of the boards and so to do away with the element of pre-selection altogether.

As so expressed, this is a misleading doctrine. It cannot be denied that by the fourth century the use of the lot in the appointment of councillors and the majority of magistrates was accepted as sacrosanct, and that those who, like Socrates, had the boldness to call for its abandonment and for the establishment of an administration of experts were regarded with the gravest suspicion by their contemporaries.

What the Athenian people, or at least their leaders, were intent on preserving was the overriding supremacy of the popular assembly: what they most wanted to avoid was the emergence of an identifiable governing class, whether represented by the Council or the magistracies, which would be strong enough to wrest control from the Assembly and maintain a general supervision of policy. This was of the essence of oligarchy; and oligarchy was anathema to the orator and demagogue who throve on his influence over the citizens at large.

It is a mistake, however, to suppose that it was basically sortition which kept the democracy in being and ensured that power remained at least nominally with the popular Assembly. More fundamental by far was the principle of rotation — the rule, applied in all but a few cases, that no citizen should hold any one office more than once in his lifetime. It was the strict enforcement of rotation which resulted in the mediocrity attacked by Socrates, and it was its strict enforcement also which may be held responsible for the wide application of sortition.

When Hignett writes that it was not because the number of Athenian officers was large but because their functions were so unimportant that they had to be appointed by lot, he tends to mistake cause for effect and to obscure the issue.

The use of the lot and the diminution in the authority of the magistracy were both alike the logical corollaries to rotation, a principle which rendered it inevitable that the competence of the candidate should not be a determining factor in his selection. Wherever, as at Athens, office is open to the whole or to a large section of the citizen body, the adoption of the principle of rotation must render any system of direct election an almost futile exercise.

Thus, at Athens any direct election of councillors or of minor magistrates would have been virtually meaningless…

(E. S. Staveley, Greek and Roman Voting and Elections, Thames and Hudson, London, 1972, pp. 54-56)

33 Responses

  1. Rotation is where many recent proposals with sortition fall short (for example most ‘Senate’ proposals). And this rotation is very important in order to maintain the main elements of sortition : impartiality, equality, representativeness and legitimacy (Dimitri Courant ) or’-representation


  2. I don’t follow this argument. If you’ve got tens of thousands of citizens, and you pick 500 each year for the boule, you can have rules enforcing rotation – as I understand it the Athenians had a rule you couldn’t serve more than twice – but the chances of being chosen more than twice or even once a quite low anyway. And what if you were chosen four or five times? Doesn’t seem to me to qualify you as a member of the ‘governing class’ or a proto-oligarch. There’s a very low expectation that you’ll be there next year.

    So I don’t see how oligarchy emerges out of sortition.

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  3. Sortition, like the referendum system, has to be developed by the rules of the art. Otherwise it has no point of changing the system. People who stay in power for a ‘long period’, appointed by sortition or otherwise, are vulnerable for corruption and manipulation. Furthermore, any long term appointment (more than a couple of days or week ends) exclude a lot of people and encourage ‘job seeking’ while in office. Rotation in the sortition system has a lot of functions. If you are in doubt a quick evaluation with the evaluation grid solves the problem


  4. More fundamental by far was the principle of rotation — the rule, applied in all but a few cases, that no citizen should hold any one office more than once in his lifetime.


    The use of the lot and the diminution in the authority of the magistracy were both alike the logical corollaries to rotation, a principle which rendered it inevitable that the competence of the candidate should not be a determining factor in his selection.

    This seems completely wrong. It would be easy to have elections with a one-term limit. This would not, of course, diminish the oligarchical nature of the electoral system.

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  5. Noone here seems to have addressed Yoram’s and my objections.


  6. Nick:> I don’t see how oligarchy emerges out of sortition.

    Where does Staveley make that claim? As I understand it he is just claiming that rotation is the most important principle and sortition is a convenient way of ensuring rotation. Rotation (ruling and being ruled in turn) was (according to Aristotle) the key democratic norm. The truth is we don’t know why sortition was used in the ancient world, but Staveley reflects the majority scholarly view that it was to ensure the primacy of the Assembly as the principal decision-making body.


  7. Thanks Keith,

    If it isn’t to lean against oligarchy, what was the point of sortition and rotation – then and now? For me Aristotle’s idea of taking turns is motivated. It’s motivation isn’t turn taking for its own sake, but because as a cultural value it’s the antithesis of oligarchy and, as a constitutional principle it is a bulwark against oligarchy.

    And to return to the point of Staveley’s claims as reported, at least as outlined here it seems naïve to say the least. The point is that human societies are stratified into broad groupings, some of which have power and some of which have little. Sortition is a radical bulwark to oligarchical tendencies in such circumstances – where the powerful which today is more and more coming down to how much financial and ‘human’ capital people have – dominate the process of election and the perspectives of ordinary people and the downtrodden get short shrift.

    Perform this thought experiment. All positions in the US congress are rotated every year v all positions in the US congress enjoy their current tenure and anyone sitting now can sit in the next term if re-selected, but the mechanism by which they’re selected is that they’re drawn at random out of a barrel.

    The first would produce a situation very much like we have – with even more electioneering and hysteria – and the other would produce a transformation. I’m not too sure what it would be, so I’m in favour of introducing such a system initially on a mostly advisory basis and then, as we gain more experience and the people gain greater trust in such an institution, expanding its powers as a complement to the existing system.

    More rotation – meh – I can take it or leave it. It sounds good, but I can’t see it achieving much against the gravitational forces established by our current political circus.

    As an empirical matter, if you think Bush’s presidency was disastrous compared to Bill Clinton and that Trump is a catastrophe compared with Obama, then the last two data points we have on the rotational requirements of the US constitution have worked out particularly badly. (I’m assuming that Clinton would have beaten Bush and Obama, Trump if they’d not been sidelined by term limits.)


  8. Nick,

    Historians mostly agree that sortition was in order to protect the assembly from aristocratic domination, but in small poleis with a large number of magistracy and jury positions and a strong ideology of participation it was a (rough and ready) form of rotation of the whole citizen body. It’s just that there is no literature saying exactly why the ancients used sortition so it’s no more than speculation. What we can be sure is that it was not to build a descriptively-representative microcosm as the Greeks had no mathematical notion of proportionality. Added to this we have Mirko’s view that the nomothetai were just the assembly wearing a different hat.


  9. Thanks Keith,

    I accept we don’t know. I’m afraid I don’t buy the idea that because the Athenians hadn’t mastered the “mathematical notion” of proportionality that they didn’t appreciate the potential for a random selection to have a representative quality.

    The ideology of juries is to get people of a certain kind to assess a situation and seek their judgement. If they’re ordinary people one expects the judgements of ordinary people from them. If they’re twelve good men and true, one expects the judgement of such people from them. That might be short of representativeness through mathematical proportionality but if there wasn’t some notion of proportionality and representativeness there – however rough and ready – there’d be no point in having more than one person, no point in specifying who can and can’t go on the jury and no point in having rules for supermajorities – which legal juries invariably do to my knowledge.


  10. Trial juries are charged with uncovering the fact — guilty or innocent — and Condorcet demonstrated mathematically that the larger the jury the more likely it is to converge on the right answer (under certain specified constraints); supermajorities are in order not to convict the innocent. There is also a right (in English law at least) that one should be tried by one’s own peers. Legislative juries are entirely different in that their task is to indicate a preference, so accurate representation of the target population is essential. Although it’s tempting to think this was the rationale behind the Athenian nomothetai, historians always caution against anachronism (and Canevaro claims they weren’t selected by lot anyway). I hope he’s wrong and would love to agree with you — the nomothetai was an important precedent in my sortition thesis — but don’t want to indulge in wishful thinking (I’d rather be the devil’s advocate).


  11. Thanks Keith,

    I guess it’s pretty academic what the Greeks thought about this. For myself I’m not too troubled by representativeness of the jury because, as with the case of legal juries, I only want to give much power to a supermajority – which deals with the risk of unrepresentativeness rather more directly. And I want a citizens’ assembly to provide another perspective to that of elected representatives and of opinion polls. As I like to say, the considered opinion of the people.


  12. But if the considered opinion doesn’t represent the people (or, as Fishkin puts it, ‘what everyone would think under good conditions’), then why should it be of any interest? (It’s just the view of an unqualified think-tank). And whilst I can understand the statistical need for supermajorities in terms of sample size and confidence factors, they run the risk of overly-privileging the status quo. Much better to ensure that it’s a truly representative sample — even though that will impose severe constraints on the groups composition and deliberative mandate.

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  13. to Nicholas > if you mean with supermajority more than 50% of the votes I can’t agree. If you mean a ‘descriptive representative’ number of people I do agree. In a way a supermajority is the dictatorship of a minority or strongly in favour of the status quo.

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  14. I find it hard to believe that a culture that produced the parthenon, drama and classical sculpture had no idea of proportionality. Both Plato and Aristotle, in different ways, were followers of Pythagoras, who held mathematics as the divine order ruling the universe. I agree though, that representation, proportional or otherwise, was not the purpose of sortition/rotation. Rather it was equal participation, in the same way that the land of yeoman farmers had long ago been divided up in such a way that the plot of each was just big enough to support a single family over several generations. This egalitarian tradition laid the groundworks for both rotation and sortition later on.


  15. I think the point is that rotation and sortition in Athens were designed to force public service to be a voluntary, amateur activity. Jobs were intentionally kept simple, pleasant and brief. Professionals were, rightly I think, wholly suspect, what with their elitism, careerism, self interest, and class consciousness. The term limits were not, as mentioned above, limiting a public servant to a four year term, we are talking a one day limit, or at most a month or a year. This seems like a minor tweak, but in reality it changes everything. It totally eliminates what has been called “collegiality,” that is, a sense of “we” vs. “them.” Instead, the public servant is just that, a jack of all trades who has been rotated all around the government who has recent, hands on experience in several fields of the civis. If there is fellow feeling, it is as a servant of the whole body politic, not as an exclusivistic advocate of any organ within it.


  16. Which is just why Athens restricted its elections to the strategos, or general, the head of the military. Everything else was sortition and rotation. What we tend to forget today is that throughout history, 99 percent of humankind were farmers. According to the Wikipedia article on this, 80 percent of Athens, or Attica, were farmers living in the countryside. How are you ever going to get the people, the masses, involved in a democracy located in the city? No cars, no radio, not a single luxury. The mass of the population arel isolated in the country and cannot come into town for more than a few months a year, even if they wanted to. A yeoman farmer would risk losing the farm and their whole family heritage. Their solution was brilliant. Turn up in the morning whenever you have a lull in farm work and the cleroterion will automatically decide what jury you will serve on. Just as with the farm plots, which were distributed equally, the jobs were designed for volunteers who would come into town for entertainment and education as well as to work. Country life, I can tell you, is boring. The work they did had to be pleasant, as anyone who has managed volunteers knows. Rotation no doubt allowed some unpleasant but unavoidable tasks to be mixed in with the popular ones, and rotation assured that no boss could be accused of favouritism. The only one you could blame was an unlucky star. The best boss in a government of, for and by the people is the individual. That is why an Ancient Athenian would consider our representative oligarchy, which we call “democracy,” to be a sad joke.


  17. John,

    > I find it hard to believe that a culture that produced the parthenon, drama and classical sculpture had no idea of proportionality.

    You are certainly correct. It is clear from the primary sources that the Athenians expected the allotted body to look like the allotment pool and expected allotted bodies to express accepted values and ideas as a result. To the extent modern historians claim that Athenians did not aim at proportionality, they are no more than reflecting their own elitist prejudices.

    > representation, proportional or otherwise, was not the purpose of sortition/rotation. Rather it was equal participation

    The difference is rather marginal, when “equal participation” means participating in a body of 500 at most two years in a lifetime. One expects one’s values and ideas to be represented whether or not one is a member of the body making a particular decision.

    (In any case, contrary to what seems to be Staveley’s claim: mere rotation is clearly not enough either for representation or for equal participation.)

    > The term limits were not, as mentioned above, limiting a public servant to a four year term, we are talking a one day limit, or at most a month or a year.

    The term on the Boule, the most powerful allotted body, was one year. This was of course deliberate. It takes time to become effective in any job of any complexity. If one is not effective, one cannot represent oneself, let alone represent others. The notion that complex tasks can be broken into infinitely small (equal?) parts, each of which can be carried out effectively in one’s spare time in the space of a day or month, is a dangerous fantasy.

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  18. John:> Rather it was equal participation, in the same way that the land of yeoman farmers had long ago been divided up in such a way that the plot of each was just big enough to support a single family over several generations. This egalitarian tradition laid the groundworks for both rotation and sortition later on.

    That’s a very interesting point, and it would underwrite the view that political participation went hand in hand with military service (in the hoplite phalanx). Given the inapplicability of this republican model to large modern states, and bearing in mind Constant’s distinction between ancient and modern liberty, it could lead to the view that Athenian and modern uses of sortition really have nothing in common. It’s also interesting to note that the early-modern republican theorist James Harrington advocated agrarian reform alongside sortition.


  19. The oft repeated claim that the ancient Greeks had no theory of a representation or sample allowing representation in proportion seems silly. It is possible to recognize some trait without having a well-defined mathematical proof of it. It might be said they had no theory of gravity, but were certainly able to observe its behavior and use it in their daily activities. (Actually Aristotle did have sort of theory of gravity having to do with matter wanting to return to its natural place, thus a dropped object moves towards the center of the earth). As for proportionality, it should be noted that each neighborhood of urban Athens and rural communities of Attica (demes) were allowed a set number of seats in the Boule in rough proportion to each deme’s population.

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  20. Indeed, well put.

    Roger Federer has no theory of projectiles, but seems to get the gist of things relatively well … ;)

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  21. Terry, Nick

    That’s true, but you can’t derive from that the claim that proportionality was their goal (unless you have supporting evidence from the primary texts). As I understand it the principal aim of Cleisthenes’ reforms was to undermine aristocratic and other factional allegiances.

    Yoram:> To the extent modern historians claim that Athenians did not aim at proportionality, they are no more than reflecting their own elitist prejudices.

    I think it’s more likely that modern theorists are projecting their own interests in proportionality on to the ancients.


  22. *** Staveley, in the section “The Principle of Sortition” of his book, considers only the use of sortition for the Council, and for the allotted magistracies (of small political importance), not for the big juries, the political importance of which was paramount in Athenian 4th century democracy. Therefore he can discount the “mirroring” side of sortition, mostly seen in the big juries.
    *** Considering only magistracies and Council, Staveley can say that sortition was basically used to prevent the formation of a class specialized in executive functions, through the rotation effect of sortition. It is reasonable to think it was actually a function of lot.
    *** Let’s note there was an informal political class of orators. This was impossible to prevent, given isegoria and unequal rhetoric skills. But this small, agonistic and highly visible political class could be easily overseen, whereas a wide and opaque administrative class would not been easy to overview, and could be a dangerous “deep state”
    *** A modern society would need some bureaucratic apparatuses, the rotation effect could not be used at the same degree. A bureaucratic apparatus could be put under control through use of standards of the ISO9000 kind and allotted auditing panels.
    *** Staveley neglects another role of sortition for the Council: combined with dokimasia, it prevented any endeavor of packing the Council with a faction.
    *** Another anti-factional use of lot can be seen in the allotment of seats in the Council; it prevented councilors of the same sensitivity to group together.
    *** The one systematic theoretical democrat text we have (after the loss of most of the ancient Greek literature) is included in Euripides’ “Suppliant Women”. Theseus, mythical founder of the Athenian democracy, says « ho dêmos d’anassei diadokhaisin en merei eniausiaisin », « the People rules by turns through annual successions ». Theseus here does not distinguish the two uses of lot (magistracies, including Council, and juries), and asserts the basic role of lot: it gives the power to the People (ho dêmos). Staveley does not consider this text. And Keith Sutherland likewise, when he says (April 26) ” It’s just that there is no literature saying exactly why the ancients used sortition so it’s no more than speculation”.
    *** Staveley was a specialist of Rome. I don’t say he was not knowledgeable about Athens, but I think he followed too easily the old idea that the democratic power, in 4th century as in the 5th century, was basically the Assembly, which led him to consider the lot only as a way to protect the Assembly from any other power. Hansen urged historians to distinguish 4th century democracy, and not only as a “decadent” form. He was followed at least by some, as in France by Claude Mossé. And whatever were the 4th century Legislators, the paramount role of big juries cannot be denied, as they were able to crush Assembly decrees as illegal, and laws as unconstitutional and “inexpedient”.


  23. « the People rules by turns through annual successions »

    That sounds to me like a pretty good illustration of the principle of rotation. Neither Staveley nor I would disagree that sortition was an effective way of achieving (approximate) rotation, given the large number of allotted positions and the republican ideology that nudged the small body of citizens into participating. Needless to say sortition in the context of large states and a liberal individualist ideology would not achieve rotation — that’s why (with the greatest reluctance) I’m becoming increasingly sceptical about the relevance of Athenian practice to modern sortition advocates.

    >Therefore [Staveley] can discount the “mirroring” side of sortition, mostly seen in the big juries.

    Whilst it’s tempting to think the Athenians used large juries to better mirror the citizen body, there is no evidence to support this claim, all we know is that the size increased in line with the importance of the case. Blind Break theorists would claim that size was just a more effective prophylactic against corruption. And Canevaro, of course, claims that there was no such thing as legislative juries.


  24. *** Corruption of hundreds of jurors, allotted on morning and voting secretly, appears an impossible task.
    *** Theseus’ sentence reveals clearly the role of sortition: it is a way for People to reign (“ho dêmos anassei”). Other functions of lot may co-exist, but it is the basic one, from the mouth of democracy’s founder.
    *** If the juries were not considered to mirror the civic body, there would have been a risk of contradictory political sensitivities between juries, or between the juries and the assembly. I don’t remember any hint of this risk in any available text. Nowadays everybody knows that the political sensitivities of elected parliaments and civic bodies are different, because elected parliaments do not mirror the civic body. But when Demosthenes asks a jury to crush Leptines’ law, he does not imply that the jurors are better than the Legislators, whatever they are. He asks only them to have a closer look to the moral and constitutional implications of the finance law, maybe not considered enough as the public treasure was lacking money.


  25. There is not much difference between sortition and random rotation. Sutherland implies a moral difference for a huge population. Well, let’s consider two cases. First, my small town of five thousand citizens, and its allotted governing body of 25 members. Second, a minipopulus of 500 in charge of the French railways. Which difference? Right, in the first case I have a small chance of being, one day, personally member of the governing body before my death (I am not very young). In the second case, the chance is very small. I don’t mind so much the difference. Which is important is the fact that the governing bodies mirror the civic bodies, that they contain some people more or less like me, and that they are not controlled neither by moneyed interests nor by some extremist activists. The difference between a small chance of belonging personally to the governing body and a very small chance is not of paramount importance to me. Is it for anybody?


  26. I don’t think that’s the nub of the dispute. The US constitution has a provision to rotate the presidency at least every eight years. You could increase it to every three months, but you’d still get a certain sort of person elected. Choosing the president by lot doesn’t strike me as a great idea, but choosing a house of congress by lot does. Now we could increase rotation in the Congress by having 3 month term limits and elections every three months. That wouldn’t produce the kind of change that sortition would produce. In this comparison sortition is a fundamental change, rotation is a second order issue.

    I’m happy to go along with the traditions of term limits within a sortition based system, but not only am I yet to be persuaded that they’re of any fundamental importance to the cause for sortition, but I’m also interested in the idea of a building a repertoire of meritocracy from within a sortition based world. But that’s a tangent to this thread.


  27. Andre,

    I’m puzzled why we’re talking past each other as nobody is disputing that sortition can under certain conditions (listed earlier) be an effective way of instituting (approximate) rotation, and whilst those conditions existed in the ancient world, they are no longer applicable. Additionally, although it would be wrong to claim that there is no leakage between the judicial and the political, my understanding is that the role of the dikastes was to adjudicate on the former. Just look at the text for the dikastic oath:

    “I will cast my vote in consonance with the laws and with the decrees passed by the Assembly and by the Council, but, if there is no law, in consonance with my sense of what is most just, without favour or enmity. I will vote only on the matters raised in the charge, and I will listen impartially to accusers and defenders alike.”

    The overriding imperatives on the dikastes are fidelity to the law and (if there is no law) justice and impartiality. This would suggest that there is a “right” answer and the Condorcet theorem demonstrates that large juries are more likely to reveal it.

    >There is not much difference between sortition and random rotation.

    Neither of your two examples have any bearing on rotation as the chance of you serving in person are small. They both presuppose representation — in the first case (25 citizens) the representativity is very crude and the body would be wide open to ex post corruption, whereas the second case (500 citizens) would be much more representative if participation was quasi-mandatory and all it did was listen to arguments and then vote in secret. If, however it had a mandate that included speech acts it would be little better than the first example. As to why large juries were utilised in the ancient world we can only speculate — Blind Breakers believe that it was in order to reduce corruption, whereas Invisible Hand theorists claim it was statistical representation. But the only contemporary evidence (Theseus, Aristotle etc) we have is that it created a system of rotation — serving and being served in turn.


    Staveley’s reference was to rotation amongst the whole citizen body, which was approximated by sortition. This is of no relevance to the modern world.

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  28. Thanks Keith

    I agree that if the proposal is rotation among the whole community that removes the selection biases that elections create and, in so doing addresses the core thing that sortition does.


  29. *** I agree with John Edward Taylor comments about the random participation of Athenian farmers in juries (and actually in the Assembly) as “volunteers who would come into town for entertainment and education as well as to work” when “they have a lull in farm work”.
    *** But actually there was something akin for the other components of the common Athenian dêmos: the craftsmen and shopkeepers, the mariners, the manual workers (see Aristotle Politics IV, 4, 21; 1291b17-26 about these components). For a craftsman or shopkeeper, , let’s say a shoemaker, to close one day to do political work could be a kind of holiday, getting out of the everyday routine work. A mariner, when he came back home, could likewise enjoy participating to political business, after talking to friends (we must not forget the face to face informal step of political deliberation). As for the manual workers, they were not usually salarymen (to be a salaryman, with a permanent boss, would look like too much being a slave – see in Xenophon Memorabilia II,8 the reaction of Eutherus, who has to work as manual worker but would be ashamed to work as bailiff of a rich man ). The manual workers got jobs on a temporary and provisional way, therefore had idle days where they could do political work (furthermore in 4th century there was a small fee for participation in assembly and juries).
    *** Therefore political work was for ordinary citizens mostly a random thing. The Assembly itself was not really “the whole dêmos” but a random mirror of the dêmos, and therefore the randomness of jury allotment did not appear a strange idea.
    *** We can likewise understand that compulsory participation in political work, for instance juries, was not possible; the one case was for public arbiters, mandatory role for 60 years citizens, i.e. more or less retired ones.


  30. *** Sutherland acknowledges “it would be wrong to claim that there is no leakage between the judicial and the political”. I hope nobody thinks the US Supreme Court is not a political body – look to the fuzz about the political sensitivity of new members. The juries in the Second Athenian Democracy had the powers of the Supreme Court, and of reviewing of laws as inexpedient, and of judging political crimes etc. Through them the People reigned, as said Theseus.
    *** Let’s consider the trial of Leptines Law: it is a kind of debate as we can see nowadays in Parliaments and in Constitutional Courts. But in Demosthenes’ Athens the decision, an utterly political decision about finance policy and immunities from public charges, was in the hands of allotted citizens, not of elected politicians or of Judges chosen, from a judicial elite, by elected politicians.

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  31. Andre,

    I know the separation of the judicial and political is a normative goal, but I don’t think we should judge the principle by its most corrupt instantiation (the US constitution). Although judges are selected from an elite by elected politicians, in the UK they frequently bite the hand that feeds them and the Heliastic Oath charged jurors to judge on the basis of law, rather than personal interests. I think you’re over-egging the pudding.


  32. *** Keith says that in Athens “the Heliastic Oath charged jurors to judge on the basis of law”. Clearly the text wording was somewhat old, corresponding more to the time when the judicial juries had lesser power and decided between men. In the 4th century model, the judicial juries could cancel decrees and laws, and sometimes without possibility to sentence the proposer of the decree or law – one instance, the Leptines Law (too late to judge Leptines himself). A new law could be cancelled by reference to higher principles and basic civic interests, which might be implied by former laws, but there was no written constitution. How this kind of decision might be deemed not political ?
    *** As for the judicial decisions, some may come from pure “exegetic” deduction from the law, or from pure assessment of facts – I mean “pure” as “without possible influence of the political sensitivity of the judges”. I doubt such purity is the overwhelming case.
    *** And anyway it cannot be for the “judicial review” of laws and decrees.
    *** As said Aristotle (Constitution of Athens, 9-1) « indeed when the dêmos is master of the pebble (= the token for judiciary votes), he is master (or “sovereign”, Greek kyrios) of the political system ».
    *** And conversely, if elite judges are master of judiciary votes, the dêmos is not sovereign.
    *** It is very possible that the British judicial elite bites sometimes other elites, or fragment of elites – as when preventing the Prime Minister to follow directly the Brexit referendum vote – and maybe the British judicial elite is often right in such bites; but if such a judicial elite is able to bite the dêmos strongly enough to take the last word from him, we will not be in a dêmokratia, we will be in an hybrid regime, with its merits and drawbacks. But please don’t say that democracy is about the political, not the judicial. Judicial is a component of political.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Update to the principles of rotation! Those who choose to govern after a number of years of governing must spend time living as one of the Government! Not the governors!

    It’s critical to remember we the people are a government! Think of the educational benefits To societies That are encouraging the rotation of citizens in and out of our government!

    There must be a time out of concentrated government power before holding any elected or appointed office again!
    It’s not as simple as just throwing the bums out!

    I believe experience in both worlds is vital for us to learn how to become and maintain a true government of the people!

    There must be a time out of concentrated government power for representatives to remember that they are only one of the people!

    A time when they must live and work under the laws and regulations they are passing!

    We must educate ourselves and our children the art of self governance! Mass informed Critically thinking participation is a prerequisite for any people who intend to govern themselves!

    A people who intend to govern themselves must arm themselves with The transparency
    And access to information that rotation will give!

    Our liberties and our freedoms will never be secure as long as the transactions of our government is intentionally concealed from us! Patrick Henry

    Think of the principles of rotation as a multi generational educational process within The process of governing!


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