The Athenian Constitution

Roderick Long has a great analysis of the "constitution" (meaning political organization) of ancient Athens. He looks at later critics of that system, and finds it generally admirable.
it is odd that [Isabel] Paterson so roundly condemns the Athenian practice of ostracism, when she praises the Romans' habit, during the Imperial period, of assassinating their Emperors (about a third of all Roman Emperors died by assassination) as a useful constitutional adaptation, akin to a letting a fuse blow to protect a circuit in event of a short. Surely the Greek ostrakon, whatever its faults, was a more civilized response to the threat posed by powerful individuals than the Roman dagger.
Interesting political ideas in Athens: representation by lot, not voting. Ostracizing the powerful for no good reason whatsoever, other than that they are powerful.

Like other quasi anarchic systems, it died via conquest, not collapse from state engorgement. Of course being conquered has been the fate of most states; so this does not distinguish it much. Still, what we can say is that states that collapsed on their own were not well designed. That doesn't mean the other were, but they might have been.

Long has a second article on Athens, discussing its civil society:
One of the most remarkable features of Athenian democracy is the extent to which legal services themselves (dispute resolution and enforcement) were the province of civil society rather than of the state. Laws were passed by the state (or at any rate through the state, via popular referendum), and applied by governmental courts (manned by juries). But there were no police, and no public prosecutors. All suits were treated as civil suits, prosecuted by the victim; offenses against the community as a whole were prosecuted by self-selected individuals on behalf of the larger society, rather like class-action suits today. (No distinction between crimes and torts was recognised.) And even before coming to court, litigants were asked to seek private arbitration, thus exhausting all avenues within civil society before turning to the state (rather the opposite of today's practice):

Private arbitration ... had a long history, extending back to the time of Homer and Hesiod, before the emergence of the state .... It was a private mechanism evolved to serve the needs of a society where kinship and the reciprocal obligations of kin and friends predominated. With the emergence of the state, private arbitration did not disappear but continued in use. ... [T]he courts were only a final stage in a complex disputing process which allowed, indeed encouraged, adjudication to coexist with arbitration and mediation.
(Hunter (1994), p. 67.)

But the most intriguing aspect of the Athenian "private law" system is the privatisation of enforcement:

The ancient city-state had no police other than a relatively small number of publicly owned slaves at the disposal of the different magistrates .... [T]he army was not available for large-scale police duties [because it] was a citizen militia, in existence as an army only when called up for action against the external world. [Yet] a Greek city-state ... was normally able to enforce governmental decisions ....
(Finley (1994), pp. 18-24.)

Most of the major tasks of policing -- investigation, apprehension, prosecution, and even in some cases enforcement of court decisions -- fell to the citizens themselves. For private initiative and self-help were the rule. ... Here punitive enforcement is not the result of coercion by a central authority but of autonomous self-regulation on the part of the community. ... For many of the functions that the modern state now entrusts to bureaucracy, police, or judiciary were embedded in a variety of social institutions ....
(Hunter (1994), pp. 3-5.)

Since there were no regular police in Athens, such street fights were not uncommon, and it lay with the spectators to decide who was in the right and restore order. ... It is clearly recognised as a duty of bystanders to help any victim of violence; this was very necessary in a city so ill-policed as Athens, for the safety of the community depended upon active support of the law by all well-constituted citizens. ... It will be noticed that the State made no provision for arrest and bail; these were private transactions. This led to abuses, such as ... wrongful detention ... but each man involved took care always to provide himself with witnesses .... There was no police-force; hence the bystanders took a lively interest.
(Freeman (1963), pp. 105, 128, 177.)

Even tax collection was privatised:

From his own assets, the wealthy contributor of proeisphora paid immediately the total amount of eisphora due from a number of other taxpayers. In return, he was given the right ... to recover his excess payment from the various obligors.
(Cohen (1992), p. 197.)

Rather anarchic. Yet it persisted for hundreds of years.

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