Saturday, June 18, 2016


A Thought Experiment

John Chrysostom, Homilies on I Corinthians, 34.5 (tr. Hubert Kestell Cornish and John Medley):
And that thou mayest see it more clearly, let us suppose, if it seem good, two cities, the one of rich only, but the other of poor; and neither in that of the rich let there be any poor man, nor in that of the poor any rich; but let us purge out both of the two thoroughly, and see which will be the more able to support itself. For if we find that of the poor able, it is evident that the rich will more stand in need of them.

Now then, in that city of the affluent there will be no manufacturer, no builder, no carpenter, no shoe-maker, no baker, no husbandman, no brazier, no rope-maker, nor any other such trade. For who among the rich would ever choose to follow these crafts, seeing that the very men who take them in hand, when they become rich, endure no longer the discomfort caused by these works? How then shall this our city stand? "The rich," it is replied, "giving money, will buy these things of the poor." Well then, they will not be sufficient for themselves, their needing the others proves that. But how will they build houses? Will they purchase this too? But the nature of things cannot admit this. Therefore they must needs invite the artificers thither, and destroy the law, which we made at first, when we were founding the city. For you remember, that we said, "let there be no poor man within it." But, lo, necessity, even against our will, has invited and brought them in. Whence it is evident, that it is impossible without poor for a city to subsist: since if the city were to continue refusing to admit any of these, it will be no longer a city but will perish. Plainly then it will not support itself, unless it shall collect the poor as a kind of preservers, to be within itself.

But let us look also upon the city of the poor, whether this too will be in a like needy condition, on being deprived of the rich. And first let us in our discourse thoroughly clear the nature of riches, and point them out plainly. What then may riches be? Gold, and silver, and precious stones, and garments silken, purple, and embroidered with gold. Now then that we have seen what riches are, let us drive them away from our city of the poor: and if we are to make it purely a city of poor persons, let not any gold appear there, no not in a dream, nor garments of such quality; and if you will, neither silver, nor vessels of silver. What then? Because of this will that city and its concerns live in want, tell me? Not at all. For suppose first there should be need to build; one does not want gold and silver and pearls, but skill, and hands, and hands not of any kind, but such as have become callous, and fingers hardened, and great strength, and wood, and stones: suppose again one would weave a garment, neither here have we need of gold and silver, but, as before, of hands, and skill, and women to work. And what if one require husbandry, and digging the ground? Is it rich men who are wanted, or poor? It is evident to every one, poor. And when iron too is to be wrought, or any such thing to be done, this is the race of men whereof we most stand in need.

What respect then remains wherein we may stand in need of the rich? Except the thing required be, to pull down this city. For should that sort of people make an entrance, and these philosophers, for (for I call them philosophers, who seek after nothing superfluous,) should fall to desiring gold and jewels, giving themselves up to idleness and luxury; they will ruin everything from that day forward.

Καὶ ἵνα τοῦτο σαφέστερον ἴδῃς, ποιήσωμεν, εἰ δοκεῖ, δύο πόλεις, τὴν μὲν πλουσίων μόνον, τὴν δὲ πενήτων· καὶ μήτε ἐν τῇ τῶν πλουτούντων ἔστω τις πένης, μήτε ἐν τῇ τῶν πενήτων ἔστω τις πλούσιος ἀνὴρ, ἀλλ' ἐκκαθάρωμεν ἀκριβῶς ἑκατέρας, καὶ ἴδωμεν ποία μᾶλλον ἀρκέσαι ἑαυτῇ δυνήσεται. Ἐὰν γὰρ εὕρωμεν τὴν τῶν πενήτων δυναμένην, εὔδηλον ὅτι οἱ πλούσιοι τούτων μᾶλλον δεήσονται.

Οὐκοῦν ἐν μὲν ἐκείνῃ τῇ τῶν εὐπόρων οὐδεὶς ἔσται δημιουργὸς, οὐκ οἰκοδόμος, οὐ τέκτων, οὐχ ὑποδηματοῤῥάφος, οὐκ ἀρτοποιὸς, οὐ γεωργὸς, οὐ χαλκοτύπος, οὐ σχοινοστρόφος, οὐκ ἄλλο τῶν τοιούτων οὐδέν. Τίς γὰρ ἂν ἕλοιτο τῶν πλουτούντων ταῦτα μετιέναι ποτὲ, ὅπου γε καὶ αὐτοὶ οἱ ταῦτα μεταχειρίζοντες, ὅταν εὐπορήσωσιν, οὐκ ἀνέχονται τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων τούτων ταλαιπωρίας; Πῶς οὖν ἡμῖν ἡ πόλις στήσεται αὕτη; ∆όντες, φησὶν, ἀργύριον οἱ πλουτοῦντες, ταῦτα ὠνήσονται παρὰ τῶν πενήτων. Οὐκοῦν οὐκ ἀρκέσουσιν ἑαυτοῖς, εἴ γε ἐκείνων δέονται. Πῶς δὲ οἰκίας οἰκοδομήσονται; ἢ καὶ τοῦτο ὠνήσονται; ἀλλ' οὐκ ἂν ἔχοι τοῦτο φύσις. Οὐκοῦν ἀνάγκη τοὺς τεχνίτας ἐκεῖ καλεῖν, καὶ διαφθείρειν τὸν νόμον, ὃν ἐθήκαμεν ἐξ ἀρχῆς τὴν πόλιν οἰκίζοντες· μέμνησθε γὰρ, ὅτε ἐλέγομεν, μηδεὶς ἔστω πένης ἔνδον. Ἀλλ' ἰδοὺ ἡ χρεία, καὶ μὴ βουλομένων ἡμῶν, ἐκάλεσεν αὐτοὺς καὶ εἰσήγαγεν. Ὅθεν δῆλον, ὡς ἀδύνατον χωρὶς πενήτων συστῆναι πόλιν. Εἰ γὰρ μένοι ἡ πόλις μηδένα παραδεχομένη τούτων, οὐκέτι ἔσται πόλις, ἀλλ' ἀπολεῖται. Οὐκοῦν οὐκ ἀρκέσει ἑαυτῇ, εἰ μὴ καθάπερ τινὰς σωτῆρας τοὺς πένητας παρ' ἑαυτῇ συναγάγοι.

Ἴδωμεν δὲ καὶ τὴν τῶν πενήτων πόλιν, εἰ καὶ αὕτη ὁμοίως ἐνδεῶς διακείσεται τῶν πλουτούντων ἐστερημένη. Καὶ πρότερον διακαθάρωμεν τῷ λόγῳ τὸν πλοῦτον, καὶ δείξωμεν αὐτὸν σαφῶς. Τί ποτ' οὖν ἐστι πλοῦτος; Χρυσὸς καὶ ἄργυρος, καὶ λίθοι τίμιοι, καὶ ἱμάτια σηρικὰ καὶ ἁλουργὰ καὶ διάχρυσα. Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἐφάνη τί ποτέ ἐστιν ὁ πλοῦτος, ἀπελάσωμεν αὐτὸν τῆς τῶν πενήτων πόλεως, εἰ μέλλοιμεν καθαρῶς πόλιν πενήτων ποιεῖν, καὶ μηδὲ ὄναρ ἐκεῖ φαινέσθω χρυσίον, μηδὲ ἱμάτια τοιαῦτα· εἰ δὲ βούλει, μηδὲ ἄργυρος, μηδὲ τὰ ἐξ ἀργύρου σκεύη. Τί οὖν; παρὰ τοῦτο ἐνδεῶς ζήσεται τὰ τῆς πόλεως ταύτης, εἰπέ μοι; Οὐδέν. Ἄν τε γὰρ οἰκοδομεῖν δέῃ, οὐ χρυσοῦ καὶ ἀργύρου δεῖ καὶ μαργαριτῶν, ἀλλὰ τέχνης καὶ χειρῶν, χειρῶν δὲ οὐχ ἁπλῶς, ἀλλὰ τετυλωμένων, καὶ δακτύλων ἀπεσκληκότων, καὶ ἰσχύος πολλῆς, καὶ ξύλων καὶ λίθων· ἄν τε ὑφαίνειν πάλιν ἱμάτιον, οὐ χρυσοῦ πάλιν ἡμῖν δὲ καὶ ἀργύρου, ἀλλὰ χειρῶν πάλιν καὶ τέχνης καὶ γυναικῶν ἐργαζομένων. Τί δὲ, ἐὰν γεωργεῖν δέῃ καὶ σκάπτειν τὴν γῆν; πλουτούντων ἢ πενομένων χρεία; Παντί που δῆλον, ὅτι πενήτων. Καὶ σίδηρον δὲ ὅταν δέῃ χαλκεύειν, καὶ ἄλλο τι τῶν τοιούτων ποιεῖν, τοῦ δήμου τούτου μάλιστα ἡμῖν δεῖ.

Ποῦ οὖν δεησόμεθα τῶν πλουτούντων λοιπόν· πλὴν εἰ μὴ καθελεῖν δέον τὴν πόλιν ταύτην; Εἰ γὰρ ἐπεισελθόντων ἐκείνων εἰς τὴν τοῦ χρυσίου καὶ τὴν τῶν μαργαριτῶν ἐμπέσοιεν ἐπιθυμίαν, οὗτοι οἱ φιλόσοφοι (φιλοσόφους γὰρ ἐγὼ καλῶ τοὺς οὐδὲν περιττὸν ἐπιζητοῦντας), ἀργίᾳ δόντες ἑαυτοὺς καὶ τρυφῇ, πάντα ἀπολοῦσι λοιπόν.

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