Where does our democracy come from?

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New is always better. Well usually. The new iPhone has cooler upgrades than the old one. A fresh piece of cake takes better than one made a week ago. So new is better right?

Well, today we will be looking back at something old, 2,000 years old to be exact. The origins of how our country works; the history of democracy.

The word ‘democracy’ comes from ancient Greece and means ‘rule by the people’. It combines two smaller words: ‘demos’ which means whole citizens living within a particular city-state and ‘kratos’ which means power.

The first democracy began more than 2,00 years ago in Athens. All the people (including the children and slaves) gathered in one place annually. People were then selected from the crowd to create a council. This council acted a bit like a government; it suggested possible laws and made decisions on behalf of the people.

Sadly, this idea of an elected council didn’t last long. Soon after that, in most places, a king or queen would hold all of the power and rule over the kingdom.

However, by the 1600s people began to think that they should have a say. It didn’t seem fair that a monarch had all the control just because they were born into a certain family. The concept of human rights was starting to gain traction and one of these rights was the ability to choose how your country was run.

Initially in New Zealand, a governor (who represented the Queen) ruled the country. But the settlers also thought this was unfair and wanted more influence. But there were too many people for each person to have a say on every issue. Instead, they elected representatives to speak for them and to make the decisions.

Sounds pretty similar to what used to happen in ancient Athens with their council, doesn’t it?

The first New Zealand election took place in 1853 and we have had elections every 3 years ever since. So perhaps there might be some wisdom in old things too.

Can you think of any other examples of old ideas that have withstood the test of time? Comment below!

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