Public Finance: Democracy and the People’s Purse

Loren J. Samons II

in What's Wrong with Democracy?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2004 | ISBN: 9780520236608
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940901 | DOI:
Public Finance: Democracy and the People’s Purse

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This chapter tries to demonstrate how certain public actions and attitudes led to Athenian overspending and public debt during the fifth century, at a time when Athens was a very wealthy state. There are two fundamental factors that continued to influence Athenian financial practice throughout the classical period: democracy itself and the silver mines located in Laurium in southern Attica. The political success in Athens became connected directly to the military office of strategos. Demokratia became a goddess in fourth-century Athens, marking the culmination of a process by which a political form became an Athenian dogma. Fourth-century Athenians taxed their wealthier citizens to supplement the diminished revenues from Athens' subjects and silver mines, which by themselves were now incapable of funding democracy and foreign policy. Demosthenes' career and speeches suggest that the hard realities of public finance and foreign policy provided a poor platform for political aspirants in fourth-century Athens.

Keywords: public finance; foreign policy; democracy; Athens; public debt; silver mines; Demokratia; tax

Chapter.  11737 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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