If America was Classical Athens

Since Presidential elections are somewhat on the mind at the moment, let me take a moment to describe how the voting system would work if the President was elected the same way as Classical Athens elected its executive government. I want to show just how radically different modern democracies are from the world's first.

Okay, so every citizen of the USA now belongs to one of 10 tribes. The split is arbitrary and has nothing to do with family relationships. It's more like having 10 non-geographic states where the populations of each state are mixed together.

Each tribe takes it in turn to supply the President for a year. So if your name is Obama or McCain but it's not your tribe's turn, then tough luck. The take-turns thing is to make sure no one party or clique can have power for long enough to take control of the country permanently.

Now here's the fun bit...when it's your tribe's turn to supply the President, ten candidates are selected by random lot from amongst the whole tribe. If your name is Obama or McCain it still won't do you any good, because the odds of you making it into the list are minimal.

All the citizens now get to vote from amongst this random selection. The winner is the President.

Consider what sort of President you're going to get if you had to choose amongst 10 random citizens. Obviously everyone is going to try and pick the most competent of the bunch, and party politics will have nothing to do with it. Some years there'll be a good guy or two in there, some years it'll be 10 losers to choose from.

To make it more fun, if we continue with the Athenian system, then all Supreme Court judges and the Federal Court are elected every year, the same way as the President.

Now let's imagine a United States in which the President and the Supreme Court is populated by chance and replaced every year. This is going to be a seriously weak executive and judiciary.

Is there anyone elected based on their merit?

Well yes, there is. The Joint Chiefs of Staff is elected every year, but unlike the executive branch, the armed forces Generals, ten of them, are selected on merit from amongst all the citizens, and unlike the President, competent Generals are allowed to serve any number of times.

So who do you think would be the most powerful group under the Athenian system? That's right, the military.

And that is why Pericles one of the greatest statesmen of all time, were he alive today, would be ruling America as a member of the Joint Chiefs. Which is exactly how he went about ruling Athens. That funny hat you always see him wearing in statues is actually a war helmet.

Of course under this system, there is something else missing: no Reps. No Senate. No elected politicians. Every citizen votes on every bill. Any citizen can propose a bill. Every citizen is a Senator. Because unlike America, and every other modern democracy, all of which are representative, Athens was a direct democracy; and that's the reason they were able to get away with the crazed system of executive government; because the sovereign power was very directly in the hands of every citizen.

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