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<   No. 4476   2021-03-22   >

Comic #4476

1 Serron: What’s Athenian democracy anyway?
1 Paris: It’s based on Ancient Athens on Earth.
2 Paris: Any citizen can propose laws and vote on any proposal. Office holders to enact and enforce approved laws are selected randomly.
3 Paris: It relies on a well educated and politically engaged populace.
4 Serron: So it never works in practice?
4 Paris: Pretty much.

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Athenian democracy refers to the system of politics and government used in ancient Athens from the 6th to the 4th centuries BC. It developed from the Athenian Revolution, in which the people rose up and overthrew the tyrannical aristocratic oligarchy that had previously ruled the city-state. The people of Athens instituted a radically different system of government, based on voting for new laws and for public office.

Voting was restricted to adult male citizens who were not slaves, which meant about an estimated 30% of the adult population.

In more contemporary casual usage—particularly in roleplaying games such as GURPS Space—the term "Athenian democracy" has come to be used as a shorthand for representing a type of government also known as direct democracy, in which the people vote directly on proposed governance policies (rather than the more common representative democracy system in which people vote for public officials, who then make the decisions). In a fictional futuristic society this is possible through the use of computer networks to enable everyone to be informed and vote on everything.

I'm not sure how well that would work in practice, as it seems like it would be susceptible to popularism and to an ill-informed populace voting in favour of actively harmful policies.

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