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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VI
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VI Post by :rikki Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :3103

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VI

It is also nearly the same in the treatise upon Laws which was writ
afterwards, for which reason it will be proper in this place to
consider briefly what he has there said upon government, for Socrates
has thoroughly settled but very few parts of it; as for instance, in
what manner the community of wives and children ought to be regulated,
how property should be established, and government conducted.

Now he divides the inhabitants into two parts, husbandmen and
soldiers, and from these he select a third part who are to be senators
and govern the city; but he has not said whether or no the husbandman
and artificer shall have any or what share in the government, or
whether they shall have arms, and join with the others in war, or not.
He thinks also that the women ought to go to war, and have the same
education as the soldiers; as to other particulars, he has filled his
treatise with matter foreign to the purpose; and with respect to
education, he has only said what that of the guards ought to be.

(1265a) As to his book of Laws, laws are the principal thing which
that contains, for he has there said but little concerning government;
and this government, which he was so desirous of framing in such a
manner as to impart to its members a more entire community of goods
than is to be found in other cities, he almost brings round again to
be the same as that other government which he had first proposed; for
except the community of wives and goods, he has framed both his
governments alike, for the education of the citizens is to be the same
in both; they are in both to live without any servile employ, and
their common tables are to be the same, excepting that in that he says
the women should have common tables, and that there should be a
thousand men-at-arms, in this, that there should be five thousand.

All the discourses of Socrates are masterly, noble, new, and
inquisitive; but that they are all true it may probably be too much to
say. For now with respect to the number just spoken of, it must be
acknowledged that he would want the country of Babylonia for them, or
some one like it, of an immeasurable extent, to support five thousand
idle persons, besides a much greater number of women and servants.
Every one, it is true, may frame an hypothesis as he pleases, but yet
it ought to be possible. It has been said, that a legislator should
have two things in view when he frames his laws, the country and the
people. He will also do well, if he has some regard to the
neighbouring states, if he intends that his community should maintain
any political intercourse with them, for it is not only necessary that
they should understand that practice of war which is adapted to their
own country, but to others also; for admitting that any one chooses
not this life either in public or private, yet there is not the less
occasion for their being formidable to their enemies, not only when
they invade their country, but also when they retire out of it.

It may also be considered whether the quantity of each person's
property may not be settled in a different manner from what he has
done it in, by making it more determinate; for he says, that every one
ought to have enough whereon to live moderately, as if any one had
said to live well, which is the most comprehensive expression.
Besides, a man may live moderately and miserably at the same time; he
had therefore better have proposed, that they should live both
moderately and liberally; for unless these two conspire, luxury will
come in on the one hand, or wretchedness on the other, since these two
modes of living are the only ones applicable to the employment of our
substance; for we cannot say with respect to a man's fortune, that he
is mild or courageous, but we may say that he is prudent and liberal,
which are the only qualities connected therewith.

It is also absurd to render property equal, and not to provide for the
increasing number of the citizens; but to leave that circumstance
uncertain, as if it would regulate itself according to the number of
women who (1265b) should happen to be childless, let that be what it
would because this seems to take place in other cities; but the case
would not be the same in such a state which he proposes and those
which now actually unite; for in these no one actually wants, as the
property is divided amongst the whole community, be their numbers what
they will; but as it could not then be divided, the supernumeraries,
whether they were many or few, would have nothing at all. But it is
more necessary than even to regulate property, to take care that the
increase of the people should not exceed a certain number; and in
determining that, to take into consideration those children who will
die, and also those women who will be barren; and to neglect this, as
is done in several cities, is to bring certain poverty on the
citizens; and poverty is the cause of sedition and evil. Now Phidon
the Corinthian, one of the oldest legislators, thought the families
and the number of the citizens should continue the same; although it
should happen that all should have allotments at the first,
disproportionate to their numbers.

In Plato's Laws it is however different; we shall mention hereafter
what we think would be best in these particulars. He has also
neglected in that treatise to point out how the governors are to be
distinguished from the governed; for he says, that as of one sort of
wool the warp ought to be made, and of another the woof, so ought some
to govern, and others to be governed. But since he admits, that all
their property may be increased fivefold, why should he not allow the
same increase to the country? he ought also to consider whether his
allotment of the houses will be useful to the community, for he
appoints two houses to each person, separate from each other; but it
is inconvenient for a person to inhabit two houses. Now he is desirous
to have his whole plan of government neither a democracy nor an
oligarchy, but something between both, which he calls a polity, for it
is to be composed of men-at-arms. If Plato intended to frame a state
in which more than in any other everything should be common, he has
certainly given it a right name; but if he intended it to be the next
in perfection to that which he had already framed, it is not so; for
perhaps some persons will give the preference to the Lacedaemonian
form of government, or some other which may more completely have
attained to the aristocratic form.

Some persons say, that the most perfect government should be composed
of all others blended together, for which reason they commend that of
Lacedsemon; for they say, that this is composed of an oligarchy, a
monarchy, and a democracy, their kings representing the monarchical
part, the senate the oligarchical; and, that in the ephori may be
found the democratical, as these are taken from the people. But some
say, that in the ephori is absolute power, and that it is their common
meal and daily course of life, in which the democratical form is
represented. It is also said in this treatise of (1266a) Laws, that
the best form of government must, be one composed of a democracy and a
tyranny; though such a mixture no one else would ever allow to be any
government at all, or if it is, the worst possible; those propose what
is much better who blend many governments together; for the most
perfect is that which is formed of many parts. But now in this
government of Plato's there are no traces of a monarchy, only of an
oligarchy and democracy; though he seems to choose that it should
rather incline to an oligarchy, as is evident from the appointment of
the magistrates; for to choose them by lot is common to both; but that
a man of fortune must necessarily be a member of the assembly, or to
elect the magistrates, or take part in the management of public
affairs, while others are passed over, makes the state incline to an
oligarchy; as does the endeavouring that the greater part of the rich
may be in office, and that the rank of their appointments may
correspond with their fortunes.

The same principle prevails also in the choice of their senate; the
manner of electing which is favourable also to an oligarchy; for all
are obliged to vote for those who are senators of the first class,
afterwards they vote for the same number out of the second, and then
out of the third; but this compulsion to vote at the election of
senators does not extend to the third and fourth classes and the first
and second class only are obliged to vote for the fourth. By this
means he says he shall necessarily have an equal number of each rank,
but he is mistaken--for the majority will always consist of those of
the first rank, and the most considerable people; and for this reason,
that many of the commonalty not being obliged to it, will not attend
the elections. From hence it is evident, that such a state will not
consist of a democracy and a monarchy, and this will be further proved
by what we shall say when we come particularly to consider this form
of government.

There will also great danger arise from the manner of electing the
senate, when those who are elected themselves are afterwards to elect
others; for by this means, if a certain number choose to combine
together, though not very considerable, the election will always fall
according to their pleasure. Such are the things which Plato proposes
concerning government in his book of Laws.

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VII A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VII

A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter VII
There are also some other forms of government, which have beenproposed either by private persons, or philosophers, or politicians,all of which come much nearer to those which have been reallyestablished, or now exist, than these two of Plato's; for neither havethey introduced the innovation of a community of wives and children,and public tables for the women, but have been contented to set outwith establishing such rules as are absolutely necessary.There are some persons who think, that the first object of governmentshould be to regulate well everything relating to private property;for they say, that a neglect herein is the source of all

A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter V A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter V

A Treatise On Government - BOOK II - Chapter V
We proceed next to consider in what manner property should beregulated in a state which is formed after the most perfect mode ofgovernment, whether it should be common or not; for this may beconsidered as a separate question from what had been determinedconcerning (1263a) wives and children; I mean, whether it is betterthat these should be held separate, as they now everywhere are, orthat not only possessions but also the usufruct of them should be incommon; or that the soil should have a particular owner, but that theproduce should be brought together and used as one common stock, assome nations at