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Direct Democracy, the old regime with the modern ideas

By Demosthenes Kyriazis

The old regime 

This form of government has been developed in Greece 5000 years ago and named Δημοκρατία, Democracy. The term comes from the Greek words Δήμος(demos) =set of citizens and   Κράτος (Kratos) = Power. Therefore Democracy means the power of the citizens.  

From its birth up to the 6th century BC, that is for about 3000 years, this regime was functioning without written laws. Friedrich Engels has named it “The spontaneous Democracy of the heroic era of Greece”.

To the question why such a form of government was developed only in Greece, why Greece became the Cradle of Democracy, various views have been expressed. According to one of them, primary causes were the morphology of the ground, the climate and the water resources of Greece and secondary the Greek language, the alphabetic writing and the logical perception [1].

It may be useful to mention that until the 7th century BC, all over the world, man faced both the physical phenomena as well as the human ones, with dogmatic perception.  A God was responsible for them.

The first who faced the physical phenomena with logic were the Physicist Philosophers from Ionia, the so called Presocratic Philosophers. Afterwards the human and social phenomena were faced, also with logic, from the Athenian philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC).

The Direct Democracy had a Darwinian type evolution.  It was influenced from the ideas of the Presocratic philosophers and gradually culminated in Athens with Klisthenis’ Laws (570-507 BC).

Two centuries later, in 322 BC, the Athenian Democracy, as action and as idea, died out not from its pathogeny but owing to external intervention [2].

2000 years had to intervene before humanity rediscover this old form of government and start applying its ideas and principles to the existing systems of power. However the effort of accepting and applying the ideas of the Ancient Greek Democracy has not yet been completed. This effort is still going on.

 

The two principles of Democracy.

Judged with the nowadays’ reasoning, the Ancient Greek (the Direct) Democracy is based on two philosophies (logics):

1. On the logic of total (set in mathematics, whole in philosophy).

2. On the logic of randomness (random, accidental in science, draw lots, raffle in social life)

For thousand years and still today, these two logics constitute “examples to avoid” from the governors of all peoples and countries. The only exemption is a window in space and time in Greece – Athens, from the 6th to the middle of the 4th century BC.

 

The modern ideas for the set and randomness  

In classical conceptions, the “set” is considered as an entity with indeterminable and fickle behavior. It can not be defined with standard rules. As a consequence of that,    the prevailing view was that the exertion of power from the totality of the citizens constituted a utopian or dangerous action. The power, that is, the taking and the implementing of decisions, could not be exerted from the totality. Decisions had to be taken from a small part of the total of people, e.g. the enlightened monarch or the citizens’ representatives, who are elected owing to their high spiritual and moral characteristics.

However the implementation of the decisions is exerted from the totality. Nobody has a contrary view to that, not even those who take the decisions. The question is whether this fact constitutes or not a logical and a moral contradiction, (that is the decisions to be taken by one or few but their implementation by all)

The randomness, until recently, was considered a blind entity, deprived from goals and perspective. According, however, to newer ideas, like those of Prigogine [3] “randomness is synonymous of non determinism“. In simple words this means that randomness is neither blind, nor without goals, but we can not perceive it, because fortune doesn’t follow the rules of determinism but those of chaos theory [4].

The before-mentioned views for the set and the randomness gradually have been adopted from the various scientific branches, in Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Cosmology, Sociology, Linguistics, as well as in Politics.

Let us see how these ideas have been applied in some of those branches.

 

In Physics

In modern Physics and particularly in Statistical Mechanics the totality of the elements of a system and their random behaviour lead to laws equally valuable to those of classical Physics, e.g. Ohm’s law [5], which we have learn in high school, comes out from the experience and the experiment, in the Statistical Mechanics is a mathematical (logic) conclusion based on the random behaviour of the set.

Another law based on the logic of the set and the randomness is that of entropy. The law of entropy was the cause to be established in Physics a new category of laws, the so called statistical laws [6].

 

In Statistics

This branch of mathematics is also based on the logic of set and random and is very well know from its applications in research, economy, administration and the public opinion polls. Statistical conclusions come out from a much smaller number of elements compared to those from the laws of Physics. This means that the statistical laws of Physics actually have certainty, while the conclusions of the Statistics have probability. In general, the validity of probability for a statistical conclusion is as higher, as higher the crowd of the elements is. The citizens have sense of this relation during the progressive announcement of the election results.

Another important point for the understanding of the validity of “sets” is that in their theory they are considered as autonomous entities, independent from the kind of their elements. The properties of sets do not coincide with those of their elements 

 

In Biology

The conclusions from the logic of set and random in Physics come out from elements which have not the ability of self-organising, e.g. the molecules of the air. But what happens with the sets of living creatures, e.g. with human beings who have both will and self-organising abilities? This question is answered from the theory of “Gestalt” [7] that is the theory of an organising set, developed from German psychiatrists, psychologists and philosophers. According to this theory the possibilities of an organised set are equal or greater from the sum of the possibilities of all members of the set, and consequently from the possibilities of whatever member of the set. E.g. the possibilities of an organised society are always greater from those of whatever of its member even if he is a genius or a genuine Messiah. What happens in the case of a false Messiah is self-understood.

 

At Structuralism

The Structuralism is a movement of new ideas with applications in Linguistics, Anthropology, Sociology and in other branches like the Fine Arts. The movement is based on the principle that the evolution and the characteristics of a system are shaped from organized sets of elements, named structures or constructions, and not from each element separately, that is the atom. E.g. in the social structuralism the evolution and the characteristics of the societies are not shaped from their members, but from certain sets of the members like the family, the generation, the faction, the race, the town (πόλις).

 

Conclusions 

From the above-mentioned three important conclusions come out:

1. The logic of “the set and random” is of general application   (that is the shape and the evolution of a system is determined from the totality of the system elements and not from that of anyone of them) 

2. The ideas and the principles of the Ancient Greek Democracy, evaluated on the basis of nowadays’ perceptions are rational, moral and effectives and not anachronistic in-effectives and utopians as some pretend out of ignorance or self-interest.

3. According to scholars but also simple citizens, the return to the principles of the Direct Democracy –adapted to contemporary conditions- consists the only way for us to surpass today’s crisis, it consists the only “window of hope”.

 

May people open this “window of hope”.

May people understand and believe that today the digital technology can ensure the economic and operational feasibility of the operation of Direct Democracy, of Digital Direct Democracy

 

 

NOTES

[1] “DIGITAL DEMOCRACY. The influence of Modern Physics and Digital Technology to Democracy”. By Demosthenes Kyriazis. Edition: Union of the Greek Physicists, 2009.

[2] In 322 BC Antipatros the Macedonian general won the Athenians and obliged them to abolish their democratic form of government and to establish an oligarchic one.

[3] Ilya Prigogine (1917-2003), distinguished Physicist and Chemist. He received the Nobel price for his works on bridging and unifying the perception of Classical Physics, Biology, Philosophy, Sociology and of Technical Appliances.

[4] According to the theory of Chaos, the “chaotic” phenomena and systems are in their essence multiple and unstable deterministic happenings, the behaviour of which we can not foresee, or at least we can not do that nowadays.  In Physics the chaotic systems are called those the evolution of which is described through nonlinear differential equations, that is through equations which we do not know yet how to find their solution

[5] This law is given from the relation: I=V/R, where I the current through the conductor, V the voltage at its ends of it and R its resistance.

[6] Today in Physics, its laws are distinguished either as deterministic, that is applied with absolute certainty, or as statistical, that is being valid with great probability, e.g. the basic law of Mechanics F=ma is deterministic, but that of Entropy is statistical.

[7] This theory is named Gestalt also in English. In Greek we used the same name as well as the term “theory of organised set”.

 

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