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Pages of laws (books 1 - 6)



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laws (books 1 - 6)   


happy and good, and the legislator will seek to make him so; but
very rich and very good at the same time he cannot be, not, at
least, in the sense in which the many speak of riches. For they mean
by "the rich" the few who have the most valuable possessions, although
the owner of them may quite well be a rogue. And if this is true, I
can never assent to the doctrine that the rich man will be happy-he
must be good as well as rich. And good in a high degree, and rich in a
high degree at the same time, he cannot be. Some one will ask, why
not? And we shall answer-Because acquisitions which come from
sources which are just and unjust indifferently, are more than
double those which come from just sources only; and the sums which are
expended neither honourably nor disgracefully, are only half as
great as those which are expended honourably and on honourable
purposes. Thus, if the one acquires double and spends half, the
other who is in the opposite case and is a good man cannot possibly be
wealthier than he. The first-I am speaking of the saver and not of the
spender-is not always bad; he may indeed in some cases be utterly bad,
but, as I was saying, a good man he never is. For he who receives
money unjustly as well as justly, and spends neither nor unjustly,
will be a rich man if he be also thrifty. On the other hand, the
utterly bad is in general profligate, and therefore very poor; while
he who spends on noble objects, and acquires wealth by just means
only, can hardly be remarkable for riches, any more than he can be
very poor. Our statement, then, is true, that the very rich are not
good, and, if they are not good, they are not happy. But the intention
of our laws was that the citizens should be as happy as may be, and as
friendly as possible to one another. And men who are always at law
with one another, and amongst whom there are many wrongs done, can
never be friends to one another, but only those among whom crimes
and lawsuits are few and slight. Therefore we say that gold and silver
ought not to be allowed in the city, nor much of the vulgar sort of
trade which is carried on by lending money, or rearing the meaner
kinds of live stock; but only the produce of agriculture, and only
so much of this as will not compel us in pursuing it to neglect that
for the sake of which riches exist-I mean, soul and body, which
without gymnastics, and without education, will never be worth
anything; and therefore, as we have said not once but many times,
the care of riches should have the last place in our thoughts. For
there are in all three things about which every man has an interest;
and the interest about money, when rightly regarded, is the third
and lowest of them: midway comes the interest of the body; and,
first of all, that of the soul; and the state which we are
describing will have been rightly constituted if it ordains honours
according to this scale. But if, in any of the laws which have been
ordained, health has been preferred to temperance, or wealth to health
and temperate habits, that law must clearly be wrong. Wherefore, also,
the legislator ought often to impress upon himself the
question-"What do I want?" and "Do I attain my aim, or do I miss the
mark?" In this way, and in this way only, he ma acquit himself and
free others from the work of legislation.
Let the allottee then hold his lot upon the conditions which we have
mentioned.
It would be well that every man should come to the colony having all
things equal; but seeing that this is not possible, and one man will
have greater possessions than another, for many reasons and in
particular in order to preserve equality in special crises of the
state, qualifications of property must be unequal, in order that
offices and contributions and distributions may be proportioned to the
value of each person's wealth, and not solely to the virtue of his
ancestors or himself, nor yet to the strength and beauty of his
person, but also to the measure of his wealth or poverty; and so by
a law of inequality, which will be in proportion to his wealth, he
will receive honours and offices as equally as possible, and there
will be no quarrels and disputes. To which end there should be four

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