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No progress in two and a half millennia?

Posted by Graeme in Politics at 10:09 am on Sunday, 29 October 2023

This passage from (Pseudo-)Xenophon’s Constitution of the Athenians, the last sentence in particular, could have been written today, and it seems we cannot run things better now than then.

It is these poor people, this common folk, this riff-raff, whose prosperity, combined with the growth of their numbers, enhances the democracy. Whereas, a shifting of fortune to the advantage of the wealthy and the better classes implies the establishment on the part of the commonalty of a strong power in opposition to itself. In fact, all the world over, the cream of society is in opposition to the democracy.

The quote it taken from the Project Gutenberg edition.
Consider how much has changed since. Democracy was destroyed and reinvented. Of course, contemporary democracy is better in many ways than Athenian: we do not have slavery, and women can vote, and so on. In other ways our democracy is weaker and power is far more removed from the voters.

While things are undoubtedly better overall, there are also some things that never seem to change. Human nature does not.

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