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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)

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laws (books 7 - 12)   

guests, treats them as enemies and captives who are at his mercy,
and will not release them until they have paid the most unjust,
abominable, and extortionate ransom-these are the sort of practices,
and foul evils they are, which cast a reproach upon the succour of
adversity. And the legislator ought always to be devising a remedy for
evils of this nature. There is an ancient saying, which is also a true
one-"To fight against two opponents is a difficult thing," as is
seen in diseases and in many other cases. And in this case also the
war is against two enemies-wealth and poverty; one of whom corrupts
the soul of man with luxury, while the other drives him by pain into
utter shamelessness. What remedy can a city of sense find against this
disease? In the first place, they must have as few retail traders as
possible; and in the second place, they must assign the occupation
to that class of men whose corruption will be the least injury to
the state; and in the third place, they must devise some way whereby
the followers of these occupations themselves will not readily fall
into habits of unbridled shamelessness and meanness.
After this preface let our law run as follows, and may fortune
favour us:-No landowner among the Magnetes, whose city the God is
restoring and resettling-no one, that is, of the 5040 families,
shall become a retail trader either voluntarily or involuntarily;
neither shall he be a merchant, or do any service for private
persons unless they equally serve him, except for his father or his
mother, and their fathers and mothers; and in general for his elders
who are freemen, and whom he serves as a freeman. Now it is
difficult to determine accurately the things which are worthy or
unworthy of a freeman, but let those who have obtained the prize of
virtue give judgment about them in accordance with their feelings of
right and wrong. He who in any way shares in the illiberality of
retail trades may be indicted for dishonouring his race by any one who
likes, before those who have been judged to be the first in virtue;
and if he appear to throw dirt upon his father's house by an
unworthy occupation, let him be imprisoned for a year and abstain from
that sort of thing; and if he repeat the offence, for two years; and
every time that he is convicted let the length of his imprisonment
be doubled. This shall be the second law:-He who engages in retail
trade must be either a metic or a stranger. And a third law shall
be:-In order that the retail trader who dwells in our city may be as
good or as little bad as possible, the guardians of the law shall
remember that they are not only guardians of those who may be easily
watched and prevented from becoming lawless or bad, because they are
wellborn and bred; but still more should they have a watch over
those who are of another sort, and follow pursuits which have a very
strong tendency to make men bad. And, therefore, in respect of the
multifarious occupations of retail trade, that is to say, in respect
of such of them as are allowed to remain, because they seem to be
quite necessary in a state-about these the guardians of the law should
meet and take counsel with those who have experience of the several
kinds of retail trade, as we before commanded, concerning adulteration
(which is a matter akin to this), and when they meet they shall
consider what amount of receipts, after deducting expenses, will
produce a moderate gain to the retail trades, and they shall fix in
writing and strictly maintain what they find to be the right
percentage of profit; this shall be seen to by the wardens of the
agora, and by the wardens of the city, and by the wardens of the
country. And so retail trade will benefit every one, and do the
least possible injury to those in the state who practise it.
When a man makes an agreement which he does not fulfil, unless the
agreement be of a nature which the law or a vote of the assembly
does not allow, or which he has made under the influence of some
unjust compulsion, or which he is prevented from fulfilling against
his will by some unexpected chance, the other party may go to law with
him in the courts of the tribes, for not having completed his
agreement, if the parties are not able previously to come to terms

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