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Athenian Democracy And Present Democracy

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Category: History Other

Autor: anton 15 March 2011

Words: 987 | Pages: 4

a) What are the similarities and differences between the Greek concept of democracy and present day representative democracy?

The Greece word 'demokratia', which means 'governement by the people', was first used by the Greece to show their political system. Back to the 5th century BC of the classical Greece period to the modern 21st century, over such a long period of time, threre are still some similarities bewteen the Athenian democracy and our present democracy. Like our modern voting districts, the Athenian country was divided into separated units. In both systems citizens had to be registered to vote on laws and public policies. The citizens who are over 18-year-old of the state or country have the rights to vote and make decision. Athenian democracy also had similar body of government which includes the Assembly, the Council and the Courts. They had public offcials and so does most of the countries today, for example the president.

However, there are also several significant differences between those two systems. Even though the Athenian democracy system had been seen as one of the most important step forward in politics, the differences could be divided into three major parts.

One major difference is the Athenian ''men only'' policy. Unlike today's democracy allows both eligible men and women to vote. The Athenian democracy was a certain selected element of the population who was allowed to vote. Only male citizens could vote and took part in asseblies. Women, foreigners and slaves were excluded from the citizenship therefore not given the rights to vote.

Athenian democracy was also called by the direct democracy. Athenian people had their main elections via lottery but not skills, because they thought this is the democratic way and it could help them to control election corruption and campaiging, since election sometimes favored the rich and powerful over the ordinary citizens. All the citizens present had the rights to participant in the debate and each person could influence the politics. Just as most of the ancient systems, in Athens active military leaders were elected to governing positions, that they believed it created a stronger government. In today's democracy, we are more likely to vote for a party, but not vote for individual policies, we are given a package of policies. Sometimes represetatives have the power to select other represetatives or other officers who share the same interest.

The third difference is the overall participation. 5,000 out of the whole population 250,000 in Athens were accepted to be the citizenship, and regularly attend meetings of the assembly which holds every 10 days. Compare to nowadays system, each 4 years (sepends on the country) people have the choice to vote. The Athenian democracy still works on a much smaller system.

b) What are the advantages and disadvantages of each system?

Both Athenian democracy and representative democracy have their advantages and disadvantages.

One of the biggest advantage of the Athenian democracy is the general possibility for every free citizen gets input into the process without any special qualifications. Under the direct democacy, all citizens with political rights were able to express their ideal and opinions directly in the Assembly meetings. Undoubtedly it helped the citizens to have taken control over and be responsible to their own government but not blame to the authority.

However it limited the possibility of taking part in the Assembly for those people living outside the Athens due to the distance they would have to cover to vote. A futher disadvantage is that not every voter understood politics. As many of the voters were peasants, they might have little knowledge on how the issues should be made and how the benefits should be shared. It was very difficult in this situation to make a law which benefits a smaller group if it hurts the larger group, even though the benefits to the smaller group outweights that one for the larger one.

A main problem of democracy here, which is still somehow present in nowadays democracies, is that who has the rights to vote. In ancient Greek, only male citizens were given the rights to take part in the process, this can not really be called as democracy because only minority had political rights. While in most countries, represnt democracy gurantees every citizen of the state has the equal rights.

The modren democracy also has its weak sides. Today's democracy is a represatative democracy. Due to the population, a direct democracy like in ancient Greek is no longer working. The process of making a decision by direct referendum is too slow and expensive. So a easiler way of election has been adopted, that is to choose politians instead to express every individual's thoughts. The weakness is that politicians can not always represent the ideas of every individual, and those people be chosen to get into the Aseembly tend to be the wealthier and more educated one. This may has many advantages, especially in lawmaking, that this helps people from only looking after their own interest rather than considering the needs of the whole society. However, people seems to be concentrated in certain professions, such as lawyers. The modern political policy is not equally distributed, and it tend to care minority's interest rather than ordinary people's wish. Gradually the voters may see the voting as a compuslsory thing rather than their duty to prove the policy.

Under the Athenian system ,the same man could not hold the same office more than once in their life and very rarely twice. This helps to reduce the possibility of corruption. In this stucture, people do not need to confirm with popular opinions. In today's politics, the influences from different political parties are much more srtonger. Which means that individual representatives have to compromise the party's principle in order to secure their place in the election. We have already learnt enough from the past experiences that how the compitition or change between different parties cause the governmental disruption and changing in laws.

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