Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2004:19: Athens – An Incidental Democracy. A case of unintended consequences of institutional change

Carl Hampus Lyttkens ()
Additional contact information
Carl Hampus Lyttkens: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: Around 600 B.C., Athens was ruled by a birth aristocracy. Some 150 years later, the city-state was a “democracy”. A rational-actor perspective, as perceived in the new institutional economics, sheds additional light on this intriguing transformation by focussing our attention on the incentives of individual actors, for example. Furthermore, it illustrates the unpredictable nature of the long-run consequences of institutional change. Repeatedly, a result of the intra-elite competition for power was that members of the elite unwittingly contributed to the changes that eventually undermined their own dominant position as a group.

Keywords: institutional change; unintended; democracy; Athens

JEL-codes: D72; N43

55 pages, First version: July 30, 2004. Revised: November 19, 2004.

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