Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

With the Labour party reduced to a cult in honour of the vain and incompetent Jeremy Corbyn, the Tory party is currently ruling the roost. Perhaps the Old Oligarch, a fifth-century BC Athenian hostile to democracy -- we do not know his real name -- can help out.

The Old Oligarch's fascinating pamphlet took the view that dêmokratia -- Athens' radical, citizen-centred direct democracy -- was fine if you were poor, ignorant and worthless, but what sensible person would want to live in a city controlled by such people? Only the 'best people', he argued, 'who are disciplined, obedient to the laws and have a strict regard for what is respectable', could be relied upon to produce a secure, well-governed state.

But that was his point: the Athenian poor and worthless were not the best people, and therefore needed direct democracy to serve their own worthless interests. After all, they rowed the boats that controlled Athens' maritime empire and brought the city its huge wealth, so it was entirely fitting that they should hold the main offices of state. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.