Principles of Representative Government by Bernard Manin

By Bernard Manin

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67 Many analyses and commentaries have sought to account for this variation in Plato's political thinking. 68 Without showing any enthusiasm for the system, he concedes that it is probably prudent to pay a certain amount of attention to democratic views and institutions. This is particularly apparent in his remarks on lot. " The first, he points out, is easily effected in distributions by lot. 69 The founder of the city must aim primarily for true justice in the strict sense of the word, that is, proportional equality.

First, in the foremost example of "direct" democracy the assembled people did not exercise all powers. Substantial powers - sometimes greater than those of the Assembly - were assigned to separate, smaller bodies. However, their members were mainly appointed by lot. The fact that representative governments have never used lot to assign political power shows that the difference between the representative system and "direct" systems has to do with the method of selection rather than with the limited number of those selected.

The citizens may want the same person to occupy a particular office year after year. It must even be assumed that if a citizen has succeeded in attracting votes once, he has a good chance of attracting them again. The only way to provide an absolute guarantee of rotation in an elective system is to limit the electorate's freedom of choice by deciding that certain citizens may not be elected because they have already been elected. This can be done, of course, but it means establishing a compromise between two principles implying potentially opposite consequences.

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