Thursday, April 02, 2015


Limits to Inequality

Aristotle, Politics 2.4.2 (1266 B; tr. H. Rackham):
Plato when writing Laws thought that up to a certain point inequality ought to be allowed, but that no citizen should be permitted to acquire more land than would make his estate five times the size of the smallest...

Πλάτων δὲ τοὺς Νόμους γράφων μέχρι μέν τινος ᾤετο δεῖν ἐᾶν, πλεῖον δὲ τοῦ πενταπλασίαν εἶναι τῆς ἐλαχίστης μηδενὶ τῶν πολιτῶν ἐξουσίαν εἶναι κτήσασθαι...
Plato, Laws 5.744 D-745 B (tr. R.G. Bury, with his note):
[744 D] The kind of law that I would enact as proper to follow next after the foregoing would be this: It is, as we assert, necessary in a State which is to avoid that greatest of plagues, which is better termed disruption than dissension,2 that none of its citizens should be in a condition of either painful poverty or wealth, since both these conditions produce both these results; consequently the lawgiver must now declare a limit for both these conditions. The limit of poverty shall be the value of the allotment: [744 E] this must remain fixed, and its diminution in any particular instance no magistrate should overlook, nor any other citizen who aspires to goodness. And having set this as the (inferior) limit, the lawgiver shall allow a man to possess twice this amount, or three times, or four times. Should anyone acquire more than this—whether by discovery or gift or money-making, or through gaining a sum exceeding [745 A] the due measure by some other such piece of luck, if he makes the surplus over to the State and the gods who keep the State, he shall be well-esteemed and free from penalty. But if anyone disobeys this law, whoso wishes may get half by laying information, and the man that is convicted shall pay out an equal share of his own property, and the half shall go to the gods. All the property of every man over and above his allotment shall be publicly written out and be in the keeping of the magistrates appointed by law, [745 B] so that legal rights pertaining to all matters of property may be easy to decide and perfectly clear.

2 Or "class discord."

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