Tuesday, May 03, 2005


A Modest Proposal

Demosthenes, Against Timocrates 139-140 (tr. J.H. Vince):
I should like, gentlemen of the jury, to give you a description of the method of legislation among the Locrians. It will do you no harm to hear an example, especially one set by a well-governed community. In that country the people are so strongly of the opinion that it is right to observe old-established laws, to preserve the institutions of their forefathers, and never to legislate for the gratification of whims, or for a compromise with transgression, that if a man wishes to propose a new law, he legislates with a halter around his neck. If the law is accepted as good and beneficial, the proposer departs with his life, but, if not, the halter is drawn tight, and he is a dead man.

In very truth they are not bold enough to propose new laws, but punctually obey the old ones. And, during quite a long series of years, we are told, gentlemen, that they have enacted only one new statute.
It might be worth trying, here and now.

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