Professor Josiah Ober, Mitsotakis Professor of Political Science and Classics at Stanford University, delivered this year’s Queensland Chapter of Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association Clayton Utz Alexander Freeleagus Oration.
It was titled “Constitutional Bargains – power to the people, who gets what?”.
The Oration was held on Friday 22 November 2019 at the offices of Clayton Utz in Brisbane and a reception followed.
Those attending included members of the Freeleagus family, the Patron of the Queensland Chapter of HAL, The Hon Anthe Philippides, Justice of Appeal, Supreme Court of Queensland, and other eminent jurists, HAL Chapter representatives, His Grace, Bishop Iakovos of Miletoupolis, Archiepiscopol Vicar for Qld and PNG, and guests.
Synopsis of “Constitutional Bargains – power to the people, who gets what?”
World history is filled with cases in which disagreements over distribution of social goods, between the Haves and Have-Nots devolved into zero-sum conflict, typically with tragic results for one or both sides.
In early sixth-century BC Athens, violent conflict between rich and poor was narrowly avoided when the two sides agreed to allow the poet-statesman Solon to arbitrate their dispute – and then to establish a new constitutional order for their state.
While Solon described his law-making as achieving justice, the ancient tradition concerning Solon recognized that his accomplishment was not ideal justice. Rather it was to find the equilibrium solution to a difficult bargaining game – one in which each side ended up with less than it hoped for, but more than could be got by fighting.
Subsequent Athenian constitutional history – the development of the world’s first well-documented democracy – is best understood as a continuation of the practice of bargaining among interested parties.
That process eventuated in a culture that emphasized the common good of “the people” and that gave individual citizens reasons to sacrifice short-term personal advantage in favor of long-term collective flourishing.
Professor Ober has provided source material relating to this Oration:
- Slides of his presentation “Constitutional Bargains – power to the people, who gets what?”
- Handout material accompanying this Oration.