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The Origin of Democracy in Athens

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  • McCannon Bryan C.

    (Saint Bonaventure University)

Abstract

A new explanation of the origin of democracy is presented, motivated by historical observations from ancient Athens. It is argued that volatility in wealth across generations encouraged the elites to extend the franchise to nonelites. While being among the elite allows for the extraction of wealth from the nonelite, if there is a significant probability that one’s offspring will fall from the ranks of the elite, then the enfranchised may have the incentive to provide democracy. This proves an insurance for one’s offspring. Furthermore, providing this protection allows, in certain environments, an elite to consume more in his life.

Suggested Citation

  • McCannon Bryan C., 2012. "The Origin of Democracy in Athens," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 8(2), pages 531-562, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:rlecon:v:8:y:2012:i:2:n:8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anastassios Karayiannis & Aristides Hatzis, 2012. "Morality, social norms and the rule of law as transaction cost-saving devices: the case of ancient Athens," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 621-643, June.
    2. Kaiser, Brooks A., 2007. "The Athenian Trierarchy: Mechanism Design for the Private Provision of Public Goods," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(02), pages 445-480, June.
    3. McCannon, Bryan C., 2010. "Homicide trials in Classical Athens," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 46-51, March.
    4. Bitros, George C. & Karayiannis, Anastassios D., 2008. "Values and institutions as determinants of entrepreneurship in ancient Athens," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(02), pages 205-230, August.
    5. Nicholas Kyriazis & Michel Zouboulakis, 2004. "Democracy, Sea Power and Institutional Change: An Economic Analysis of the Athenian Naval Law," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 117-132, January.
    6. Nicholas Kyriazis, 2009. "Financing the Athenian state: public choice in the age of Demosthenes," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 27(2), pages 109-127, April.
    7. Fleck, Robert K & Hanssen, F Andrew, 2006. "The Origins of Democracy: A Model with Application to Ancient Greece," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 115-146, April.
    8. Weil, Philippe, 1989. "Overlapping families of infinitely-lived agents," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 183-198, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert K. Fleck & F. Andrew Hanssen, 2013. "How Tyranny Paved the Way to Democracy: The Democratic Transition in Ancient Greece," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(2), pages 389-416.
    2. repec:kap:copoec:v:28:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10602-017-9241-2 is not listed on IDEAS

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