Edited by William F. Shughart II and Laura Razzolini
Chapter 9: Voting
Michael C. Munger 1 Introduction The use of voting to guide public decisions is very old. It was clearly well established in Athens, as Plutarch reported in his Lives, in the story of Aristides. Consider his account of the ostracism, or banishment, of Aristides about 480 BCE. It was performed, to be short, in this manner. Every one taking an ostracon, a sherd, that is, or piece of earthenware, wrote upon it the citizen’s name he would have banished, and carried it to a certain part of the marketplace surrounded with wooden rails. First, the magistrates numbered all the sherds in gross (for if there were less than six thousand, the ostracism was imperfect); then, laying every name by itself, they pronounced him whose name was written by the larger number, banished for ten years, with the enjoyment of his estate. As, therefore, they were writing the names on the sherds, it is reported that an illiterate clownish fellow, giving Aristides his sherd, supposing him a common citizen, begged him to write Aristides upon it; and he being surprised and asking if Aristides had ever done him any injury, ‘None at all’, said he, ‘neither know I the man; but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called the Just’. Aristides, hearing this, is said to have made no reply, but returned the sherd with his own name inscribed. At his departure from the city, lifting up his hands to heaven, he made a prayer (the reverse, it would seem,...
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