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A Comparison of Athenian Democracy and American Democracy

Many consider democracy as the best thing that has ever happened to human societies. Democracy is often related to the concept of freedom and associated terms like freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The United States of America is using democracy as its form of government. Other countries also had followed and had modeled their style of governance to the USA. There must reasons for the popularity of democratic governance for governance is certainly no joking matter.

To explore this query, it is important to note that democracy do not find its beginnings in the USA, its origins go way back to ancient times. Athenian democracy is regarded as one of the earliest form of democracy. During the time of its formulations was the first time in history wherein the term “democracy” was first used. It is undeniable that modern democracy owes much from Athenian democracy. It is also as important to note that the arguably two most successful and influential societies in history, the Athenian and American society, had utilized the same kind of governance: democracy.

This paper seeks to attempt to compare Athenian democracy and American democracy and see if there are similarities and dissimilarities between the two societies. This undertaking could be useful for individuals who have queries about the nature of America’s version of democracy as similarities and dissimilarities would only surface when Athenian democracy and American democracy are juxtaposed. Democracy Before we traverse further in this discussion, it is imperative that we have a definition of the term “Democracy” for this paper to have a guiding trajectory.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a government is considered democratic when supreme powers are given to the people and the people can exercise both directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections (Merriam-Webster) In simpler terms, a society is considered democratic when the powers to govern are bestowed should be on the people, not to politicians. It is the type of governance that follows the “by the people and for the people” principle. Athenian democracy Athenian democracy may be unfamiliar to some so here is a brief background.

Around 500 BC, Athenian democracy was developed by ancient Greeks, particularly the inhabitants of Athens. Athens was considered to be one of the first societies that had harbored a democratic system of governance. Some other cities of ancient Greece also had their versions of democracy, but all of those versions proved to be inferior to the Athenian Democracy. Athenian democracy difference to American democracy in terms of political power In terms of political power, there are explicit differences between the two. Athenian democracy can be categorized as “direct democracy.

” Direct democracy is described as the type of governance wherein the people vote on executive bills and legislations. There is no need to for politicians and representatives in Athenian democracy. They have some public officials, but their political powers are very limited in contrast to American democracy. As the term suggest, the people had the direct power in the government. In this kind of governance, the people had much participation in the governance. The people vote and decide on issues concerning their society like on wars, taxes, and legal trials.

This is a very striking contrast to the American wherein the constituents vote and elect politicians and representative to formulate and approve executive bills and legislations. American democracy claims to be for the people, but it seems that it is the type of governance wherein the people has no political voice with regards to issues concerning their society like wars and taxes. The participation of the Greek people in governance was perhaps best exemplified when the public officials had consulted the people with regards to waging war against the Spartans.

(Hignett 12-18) Just recently, the United States of America was entangled in conflict against another country. Although some of the American people were against a war, the war was still waged. That is because it is the decision of some politicians of high positions. After that conflict, some critics of that war had labeled the USA as the world’s bully. Although, direct democracy appears to be leaning on the side of the people, many historians and critics consider direct democracy as the main drawback of Athenian democracy.

American democracy’s advantage to Athenian democracy in terms of political stability Since Athenian democracy practices direct democracy, it was very prone to abuse by the people, and they did just that. The public officials back then could be considered amateurs in today’s context. There were no professional politicians, lawyers, judges, and civil service. In the context of politics, the people under Athenian democracy became spoiled as they could do whatever they please whenever they want. The executive bills and legislations became impermanent.

The people had the power to erase or give birth to law. The taxes became imbalanced and other issues remained unresolved. Some historians and critics also accuse direct democracy as the reason for the gradual and fateful fall of the Athenian society. The proponents of American democracy could have bore that accusation that is why they had deviated to some aspects of Athenian democracy, particularly on direct democracy. It is also very evident that the American government’s stability owes much to being organized more organized than the Athenian government.

The US government is divided into three main branches presumptively for the purpose of being organized. These government branches are namely the executive branch, legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Each branch has their respective function and privileges, but the bulk of the political power is bestowed to the executive branch wherein the president belongs. Each of the branches is comprised of politicians and representatives that are placed into position by elections and voting. (Miller 122-126)

As we had reviewed Athenian democracy, the lacking essential element seems to be organization. But in American democracy, it is very evident that the people have less participation on issues concerning their society as opposed to the Athenian democracy. Cleisthenes’ possible thoughts on this comparison Cleisthenes is probably the most known figure in the discussions of the origins of democracy. His name is much associated with Athenian democracy as he is its primary proponent. (Leveque and Vidal-Naquet 32) Cleisthenes would have a hard time on deciding which democracy would he prefer.

Both Athenian democracy and American democracy have their respective strengths and weaknesses. But Cleisthenes as being one of the greatest political thinkers in history would spot minor similarities. He would notice that ostracism is also present in American democracy. But America’s version of ostracism is a much brutal act called “deportation. ” The decision of Cleisthenes would depend in his present motive. If he would go for the ideal of democracy that is a government for the people, he would opt for the Athenian democracy.

But if Cleisthenes would be overpowered by the temptation of tyranny, note that he is related to the tyrant of Sicyon also named Cleisthenes, he would opt for American democracy as it could grant him much political control. Another possible decision for Cleisthenes is again leaning on the side of American democracy. That is he would take into consideration that the lack of organization became the cause of the downfall of the Athenian society. Conclusion Perhaps the most useful query that should be explored would be: which kind of democracy would be a more efficient system of government?

To answer that question in a convincing manner, we should take into consideration the context of the two democracies. During the times of the ancient Athenian society, the government and politics was still in the process of learning. During this process, mistakes are almost inevitable. It is just unfortunate that the price was the downfall of one of the greatest societies in history. On the other hand, the present day America is one of the most populated on the planet. Utilizing a direct democracy like the Athenian society would prove to be a herculean task.

To choose what is the more efficient kind of democracy is already unnecessary. Again it boils down the context of the respective societies. After all, these two societies are considered the most successful and influential in history. It is needless to say that their success owes much to their type of government.

Works Cited

Hignett, Charles. A History of the Athenian Constitution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1962 Leveque, Pierre & Vidal-Naquet, Pierre. Cleisthenes the Athenian. NJ: Humanity Press. 1996 Miller, Fred. Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle’s Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1995

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