Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1428612
 


 



Democracy and Political Knowledge in Ancient Athens


Ilya Somin


George Mason University School of Law

July 1, 2009

Ethics, Vol. 119, No. 3, pp. 585-590, April 2009
George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 09-31

Abstract:     
In his excellent book Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, Josiah Ober argues that ancient Athenian democracy surmounted the dangers of political ignorance and made effective use of dispersed citizen knowledge to forge good public policy. He effectively demonstrates that Athenian democracy was more successful than the oligarchic and tyrannical governments of rival Greek city-states. He also shows how Athenian institutions worked to reduce the dangers of political ignorance.

On the other hand, Ober is less successful in showing that the relatively impressive performance of Athenian democracy should lead us to be optimistic about today’s democratic states. Indeed, his account suggests that Athens’ success in overcoming political ignorance was in large part the result of two important ways in which it differed from modern democracies: the small size of its electorate and the very narrow range of functions performed by its government.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 7

Keywords: Althaus, Delli Carpini, classics, fans, Founding Fathers, information, Keeter, Plato, rational choice, Sparta, Syracuse, Thucydides

JEL Classification: D70, D72, D80, D83, H40, H41

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Date posted: July 2, 2009 ; Last revised: July 8, 2009

Suggested Citation

Somin, Ilya, Democracy and Political Knowledge in Ancient Athens (July 1, 2009). Ethics, Vol. 119, No. 3, pp. 585-590, April 2009; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 09-31. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1428612

Contact Information

Ilya Somin (Contact Author)
George Mason University School of Law ( email )
3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
703-993-8069 (Phone)
703-993-8124 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~isomin/
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