Constitutional choice in Ancient Athens: The evolution of the frequency of decision making

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Contrary to modern representative democracies where elections tend to take place years apart, in the direct democracy of Ancient Athens the assembly of the citizens met to decide policy up to forty times per year. The paper explores a model of constitutional choice where self–interested citizens decide how long to wait until they vote by maximising the net gain from an uncertain voting outcome. It is found that the frequency of voting increases unambiguously when the probability of being a member of the winning majority increases, and decreases with the loss from being a member of the losing minority and the resource cost of the vote. Under some plausible conditions, the frequency also rises with increases in the utility gain from the vote, the discount rate, and the required majority to pass a policy motion. It is argued that those conditions were met in Athens.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConstitutional Political Economy
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusPublished online - 24 May 2017


  • Frequency
  • Direct Democracy
  • Ancient Athens
  • Constitutional Choice


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