The democracy the Greeks invented differed greatly from current democracies.
The Greeks practiced direct democracy. This means the people decided, not the elected representatives of political parties, because there were none. Not needed.
In fact, political parties are a leap backwards, they are a bit like political religions. They have “principles” (dogmas and faith that you are not allowed to question). They also turn every issue into a good vs. bad, “us” the good, “them” the bad. It is not reasonable.
Every issue has many sides. To have a preconceived idea of how to deal with it is not the best approach.
Better to first know the facts and informed opinions. Let us listen to all reasonable sides of the issue and then let us decide. No “progressive” or “conservative” ways, but solutions made by the people on the issue. Sometimes the people will be “progressive”, sometimes “conservative”. Nothing wrong with that, ideas change.
Sometimes, progressive can bad. Same goes for conservative.
In ancient Greece the people also made the laws and applied the laws.
The people also decided who would run the government, the “bureaucracy”. It would be run by ordinary citizens. When special skill or knowledge was required, the people also decided who would do the job.
There were no permanent positions in government. This meant no entrenched political elites, no professional politicians, no politicians who serve for decades, no lobbyists that often distort the flow of democracy.
When the people decide, lobbies make no sense. Business, or anyone else who wants to argue that taxes are too high, etc., will have to make the case to the voters. It is easy to see how this will eliminate a huge corruption motivator.
In ancient Greece citizens also proposed changes to laws, proposed new laws or do away with existing ones. But they had to argue their case before their fellow citizens.
I would like to listen to citizens who believe climate change is caused by human activity. I would also like to listen to the experts whose evidence backs up that position. But I also would like to listen to those who oppose them.
Once I hear their arguments, I would like to make my decision and cast my vote. I do not want others to “vote” for me. Politicians are not experts; nobody can be an expert in more than one field. I prefer to listen to the experts myself and decide by myself. I know, the majority may vote the opposite of what I vote, but that is democracy.
Would not all that be a great step forward?
Citizens also decided in Greece when to declare war, when to stop the war, who was guilty, etc., I would love to do that now too.
It makes sound sense that decisions that result in the death of thousands of fellow citizens are far more important that electing a politician. Therefore the citizens should be responsible for such decisions.
Greek direct democracy can be applied to any issue.
For example, if someone, or a group, believes that health services should be universal and paid for by taxpayer, he could propose and defend that before the people.
The people would then vote for, against, or perhaps a third alternative.
Likewise, if we have universal health service but some think that it is not good, a person or group could argue the issue before his fellow citizens.
Another health example is the case of the corona virus lockdown. Citizens in favour or against, and experts, would argue the issue before the citizens. We would would then vote.
With direct democracy there is no need to have those endless arguments among politicians. Direct decisions by the people would speed things up. There is no need for time consuming negotiations among parties, with lobbies, etc.
Direct decisions by the voters also remove from the process political electoral considerations. As we know, such considerations often have little to do with the common good.
The ancient Greeks had the key insight; better we decide for ourselves. They trusted that the majority of fellow citizens had common sense. I also have that trust.
It is possible that the majority of citizens do not have political common sense and direct democracy can collapse, that would be a problem. It did collapse in Greece. But representative democracy, which also requires a lot of common sense. Sadly, we know that sometimes it collapses too.
The majority of countries in the World are not ready for representative democracy. But that does not stop us believing representative democracy is the more civilized form of government.
In representative democracy we trust the people to select the right people to make the decisions. In direct democracy we make the decisions ourselves. It makes sense.
People sometimes say some issues are too complex to be decided by ordinary people. Well, complex technical issues can be explained by experts in ways the vast majority of citizens can understand. Is it not what they are doing with the corona virus or climate change?
I am more comfortable voting on any concrete issue, than voting to select the right leader who would decide for me. That is one of the reasons why I prefer direct democracy. Don´t you?
Direct democracy also by overcomes the problem of how the parties select the candidates, or the political marketing and packaging of candidates.
Some people say dictatorships can be more efficient than representative democracy, I disagree. Dictatorships hide the real problems; they all blow up. They are more ruthless, not more efficient.
Direct democracy, because it is direct, is even more efficient than representative democracy, IF people have the skills to make it work.
I am convinced. I have no doubt at all, that the people in stable democracies are ready to evolve towards direct democracy.
With the new technologies direct democracy can be more practical than even in ancient Greece.
What we have to work on is prepare ourselves in our schools, boroughs, villages, towns, cities, regions and countries to be capable of direct democracy, at least to the level of the ancient Greeks.
In the next blog I will give examples of direct democracy in practice right now, perhaps they are closer to you than you think.
Help spread direct democracy to make life better.
See you tomorrow.