Why America Should Adopt Ancient Greek Ostracism

Americans love to think of their democratic political process as one that harkens back to the days of ancient Greek civilization. Eventually, of course, we did away with the sexist and plutocratic bans against voting so one might say we did the Greeks two better. That may be true in general, but one thing that the American political system could definitely use from the Greek model that we don’t have is the officially sanctioned system of ostracism.

The main problem we have in America is the difficulty in getting rid of those whom the majority agree abuse the system. One of the greatest tools available in the process of Greek democracy—which just goes to prove that a democracy is better than a republic in almost every way—was the ability of the people to essentially show the door to any person in the society, regardless of their prominence.

And it all occurs with the promising veil of anonymity so that those who know something that the rest of us should don’t have to fear retribution. The Greeks allowed any citizen to publicly propose a call for an annual ostracism. That proposal then went to the Assembly for advice and consent. Should the members of the Assembly agree that an ostracism might be called for, the whole thing took place in a public venue. No shadowy manipulating behind the scenes. Donald Trump would have to face the public in the same open forum as any idiot selling used guns who spouted the same foolishness.

The thing about the Greek method of dealing with those who were making a mockery of the rights afforded by their system of democracy was that the ostracism could only be held once a year. This meant that a number of different candidates might have their name placed into what might be termed a ballot of shame. A minimum of 6,000 votes in favor of ostracism was required and whichever citizen received the most votes for banishment would then be exiled for a ten year period.

Imagine that! Ten years of America without a Rush Limbaugh or a Nancy Pelosi or any Kardashian. Bliss. Bliss, I says!

And here’s the great part; the aspect of the process of ostracism that makes it so much less offensive than Biblical exile or totalitarian exile. When the ten year period of exile ended, the ostracized citizen was free to come back and resume the life he left behind without fear of losing his property or rights.

Ostracism under the Greek system would not, of course, solve all of America’s problems. For one thing, a country of hundreds of millions needs to be able to shuffle off more than just one ill-fitting citizen per year. Let’s say that the top 500 vote getters were forced into exile for a decade. Since voting for ostracism would be just as ideologically rigid as national elections, the impact on the government would be immediate and highly welcome. What those in Congress who are so resistant to compromise (mostly Republicans, let’s face it) really need to start putting country ahead of party is installation of a real fear of losing something that they simply don’t have now.

After a few years of ostracism being adopted, politicians would likely become far less a percentage of those forced into exile. The next logical step would be celebrities. In just a few years America could be free of…well….where to begin?