The Liberty of Aristotle & Ancient Athens – to Rule and be Ruled in Turn.
In a sub dedicated to liberty and freedom, I thought it would be interesting to post about ancient conceptions of liberty. More than 2000 years ago Aristotle wrote about liberty and freedom in his work Politics. He wrote extensively about freedom and democracy which he relates here:
The basis of a democratic state is liberty; which, according to the common opinion of men, can only be enjoyed in such a state; this they affirm to be the great end of every democracy. One principle of liberty is for all to rule and be ruled in turn, and indeed democratic justice is the application of numerical not proportionate equality; whence it follows that the majority must be supreme, and that whatever the majority approve must be the end and the just.
Every citizen, it is said, must have equality, and therefore in a democracy the poor have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme. This, then, is one note of liberty which all democrats affirm to be the principle of their state. Another is that a man should live as he likes. This, they say, is the privilege of a freeman, since, on the other hand, not to live as a man likes is the mark of a slave. This is the second characteristic of democracy, whence has arisen the claim of men to be ruled by none, if possible, or, if this is impossible, to rule and be ruled in turns; and so it contributes to the freedom based upon equality.
It’s important to note that 2000 years ago in ancient Athens, what was understood to be “democracy” is different than what we have today. In America, we consider elections the epitome of democracy. For Aristotle, elections were characteristic of oligarchies. Instead, democracies were a government run through sortition, or random selection of government officials.
Aristotle ultimately believed that democracy, and this sortition, was the kind of government that maximized freedom. I suppose this is ironic as many modern libertarians are opponents of democracy. It should also be noted that Aristotle was not a strict supporter of democracy. Rather he supported a kind of “good oligarchy” which he called aristocracy.
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society