What America’s Legal System can Learn from the Greeks
October 10, 2011
With modern day Greece teetering on the edge of default, it’s easy to think we have nothing to learn from the Greeks – unless, perhaps, we look back to our democratic forerunners of 2,400 years ago. In her new book, The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, Bettany Hughes informs us that Athens circa 399 B.C. had already anticipated and adopted remedies to protect against the ancient equivalent of what we all recognize as a scheming trial lawyer.
“It is in democratic Athens that the sycophant is born: a man on the make who brings a trumped-up court case; someone who thinks he’ll be able to score off the very presence of a justice system. Sycophantai were the fifth-century legal equivalent of ambulance-chasers; citizens who brought cases on flimsy charges so they the could be paid for attending court, and might possibly even net damages. And so steep fines have been introduced – if you don’t succeed in getting any more than one-fifth of the votes, you have to pay the state back.”
That’s right. The ancient Greeks invested loser pays legislation!