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Review of Law & Economics

Editor-in-Chief: Parisi, Francesco

Ed. by Cooter, Robert D. / Gómez Pomar, Fernando / Kornhauser, Lewis A. / Parchomovsky, Gideon / Engel, Christoph


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1555-5879
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The Origin of Democracy in Athens

Bryan C. McCannon1

1Saint Bonaventure University

Citation Information: Review of Law & Economics. Volume 8, Issue 2, Pages 531–562, ISSN (Online) 1555-5879, DOI: 10.1515/1555-5879.1597, October 2012

Publication History

Published Online:
2012-10-31

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.

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