Aristotle – Politics, Book 3

Ch. 1

  • All arts & sciences that encompass an entire subject don’t come into being in fragments. These arts & sciences consider the entirety of the field.
    • g. In gymnastics, they think not only about different types of training for different bodies but what the absolute best is. If not the best for a specific individual, then what works best in general for all? If a man wants a decent but not crazy work-out regimen, the experts will figure that out too.
      • The same goes for shipbuilding, medicine & making clothes.
    • The same goes for government – what type of government works best in accordance to our aspirations, in an ideal state or relative to the circumstances. They’ll know what makes people the happiest & what is easiest to preserve.
      • The legislator or statesman ought to know what’s best suited for states in general because political writers are impractical. He should also what’s possible & easily attainable by all. Some only want what’s perfect & others are more realistic.
    • It must also be remembered that any change of government introduced starting with existing constitutions will be hard to introduce in the reformation of a constitution as in the establishment of a new one. It’s just as hard to learn something new as it is to unlearn something old.
      • The role of a statesman is to find remedies for defects of existing constitutions. He can’t do that unless he knows what’s available for choices.
      • It’s assumed there’s only one type of monarchy, oligarchy or democracy. That’s not true.
      • This political insight will know what laws are best & what’s best suited to different forms of government. Because laws are to be relative to the constitution & not the other way around.
      • A constitution is the organization of offices of state & determine what the governing body will be & what the community’s goals are.
      • Laws should not be mixed up with the principles of constitution. They are rules according to which magistrates administer the state & proceed against offenders.

Ch. 2

  • In the past chapter, we proposed 2 forms of government: kingly rule, aristocracy & constitutional government. We also mentioned 3 corresponding perversions of those forms: tyranny, oligarchy & democracy. Let’s discuss constitutional government.
    • It’s obvious of these 3 perversions that royal rule may be the best in its true form, but the perversion is the worst. Tyranny is the worst of all governments. Oligarchy isn’t far behind & democracy is the most tolerable of the 3.
    • Oligarchy isn’t far behind & democracy is the most tolerable of the 3.
    • Plato said that while constitutional government was the worst of the true forms but its perversion, Democracy, was the most tolerable. But within defective oligarchies, one oligarchy isn’t any better than other forms of oligarchies, just less bad.
    • We have 5 tasks ahead of us:
      • 1 – Determine how many varieties of constitutions there are.
      • 2 – What form of constitution is most acceptable, especially when not in a perfect state.
      • 3 – What forms of government different people are suited to.
      • 4 – Determine how to start establishment of the forms of government we’ve laid out there.
      • 5 – Determine how these forms become ruined & preserved.

Ch. 3

  • We have many forms of government because we have many elements of the state.
    • Each state has families & of its citizens, there are rich, poor & the middle class. The rich are well-armed & the poor aren’t.
      • The common people are farmers, traders & artisans.
      • Among the people there are differences in wealth – even number of horses because you have to have money to keep horses.
      • In older times, wealth was tied to cavalries & used them against their neighbors.
      • Also there are differences in rank & merit.
        • Of all these elements, sometimes the minority, sometimes the minority have a shared in government.
        • Different forms of government are possible sine the elements are variable.
      • A constitution is an organization of offices that citizens distribute among themselves according to the power their class possesses.
        • There must be as many forms of government as there are modes of arranging the offfices.
      • It’s thought that there are 2 forms (& variations of these 2) democracy & aristocracy.
        • Aristocracy & oligarchy are a form of each other to be compared to each other.
        • Constitutional government & democracy are also this way.

Ch. 4

  • A government can’t be said to be a pure democracy where the majority are sovereign because in oligarchies, the majority rules.
    • Suppose in a city of 1300 people, 1000 are rich & don’t allow the other 300 a share in government. That’s not really a democracy.
    • If the poor were in the minority & somehow become masters of the rich, that’s not a democracy either.
    • A democracy is where the free are the rulers
    • An oligarchy is where the rich are the rulers
      • Democracy & oligarchy aren’t sufficiently distinguished by wealth & freedom. They both have other elements a government isn’t a democracy where a few freemen rule over the many unfree.
      • It’s also not when the rich hold the government because they’re a democracy.
      • A government is a democracy when it’s free, who are also poor & the majority, govern.
      • An oligarchy is when the rich & the noble govern & also at the same time the minority.
    • Starting from the principle that every state has many parts, let’s talk about the parts themselves.
      • 1 – Food-producing class
      • 2 – Mechanics
      • 3 – Traders
      • 4 – Serfs & laborers
      • 5 – Warriors
      • 6 – Administration of justice
      • 7 – Ministers of state with their property
      • 8 – Magistrates & officers
      • 9 – Deliberators & judges between disputants.
    • Of the forms of democracy:
      • 1 – Strictly on equality – rich & poor have some rights & share in government.
      • 2 – Magistrates elected based on property qualification (but low). If you lose property, you lose your rights.
      • 3 – All citizens have no disqualification but the law is supreme.
      • 4 – Only those admitted to government are citizens but the law is supreme.
      • 5 – The law is not supreme but the minority. This is brought about by demagogues. The public becomes a single ruler – a despot or tyrant. All matters are brought before assembly.

Ch. 5

  • Types of oligarchies
    • 1 – Where there’s a property qualification. The poor without land have no share in government but if they acquire land, they get a share.
    • 2 – There is a property qualification for office, but a high one. The vacancies in government offices are filled by cooptation (at the qualified people’s discretion). If the election is out of all qualified people, a constitution inclines to aristocracy.
    • 3 – Oligarchy that is hereditary from father to son.
    • 4 – Also hereditary where the magistrates are supreme & not the law
      • These are different sorts of oligarchies.
      • In states where the constitution is established by law – but not democratic – may be administered democratically.
        • Mostly happens after a revolution. Governments don’t change all at once. The dominant parties are happy to encroach a little on opponents. But the authors of the revolution have the power.

Ch. 6

  • It’s clear that some or all classes will have a share in government – all or some only & not others.
    • 1 – When farmers & those with modest fortunes rule, the government is ruled by law because the citizens are forced to live by labor & not by leisure, so they set up authority of law & assemblies. Leisure can’t be provided without an income.
    • 2 – Another form of democracy comes with birth that excludes those without eligibility & shares in government only come to those with leisure. This democracy gives supreme power to laws because the government has no means to provide citizens income.
    • 3 – Another gives all freemen a right to a share that they don’t actually exercise because they have no leisure. So the law rules supreme.
    • 4 – Where the city has grown so large & rich, it can pay its citizens enough to give them leisure, which allows commoners to participate in government.
      • In oligarchies where most citizens have property, this allows anyone to participate in government. But it must be the law that governs & not individuals. It haves them the right to a share & not need to live off the state. The rule of law acts in their stead because they don’t have a ton of leisure.
      • Once men with property are few & have more property, the stronger they are, the more power they claim. Since this is their goal, they select for government from their other classes to be admitted to government. They still want rule of law, according to their wishes & so write it. The power becomes concentrated & the governing class keep the government offices in their own hands & pass it on hereditarily. It leads to a family-based despotism approaching monarchy.

Ch. 7

  • There’s still another form of government but it’s not very common & is often ignored by knowledgeable men like Plato.
    • The term “aristocracy” is often used to apply to a form of government formed by the best men & not just ordinary men.
    • In the perfect form of the state has the good man as the same as the good citizen where other states hold good citizens are good only relative to the form of government.
      • These are called “aristocracies” & the magistrates are chosen based on their wealth & merit.
      • In states that don’t make virtue their goal, men of virtue & merit are still found.
      • When a government has wealth, virtue & numbers, the constitutions incline more towards oligarchies.

Ch. 8

  • All the previously mentioned aristocracies fall short of perfect forms of government, so they are thought of as perversions.
    • Polity or constitutions are described as a fusion of oligarchy & democracy but they are usually used in relation to governments approaching democracy.
    • Aristocracies tend towards oligarchy
      • The rich already possess external advantages without which leads to the temptation of crime & that’s why they are called noblemen.
    • It appears impossible that the state, which isn’t governed by its best citizens but by the worst, would be well-governed. It also seems impossible that a badly governed state would be governed by the best.
    • Good laws, if not obeyed, don’t constitute good government
      • There are 2 parts of government
        • 1 – Actual obedience of citizens to the laws.
        • 2 – Goodness of laws that they obey.
          • They may obey laws but it they’re bad laws, it’s still not good.
          • They may also obey the best laws attainable to them or the absolutely best laws.
        • The distribution of offices based on merit is specific to aristocracy because virtue is a principle of aristocracy, just as wealth is of an oligarchy & freedom of a democracy.
          • In all 3 of these, there is an aspect of the right of the majority & whatever seems good to those who have a share in government authority.
          • Polity exists in most states because the fusion goes no further than the attempt to unite freedom of the poor & wealth of the rich.
            • 3 grounds to claim an equal share in government: freedom, wealth & virtue.
              • 2 mixed together – rich & poor – is a polity or constitutional government.
              • Union of all 3 is an aristocracy

Ch. 9

  • Let’s discuss how oligarchy & democracy fused together is organized. Its nature will be illuminated by a comparison of oligarchy & democracy – & the fusions of the 2.
  • 3 modes of fusions of government can be formed
    • 1 – Combine laws made by both forms, especially administration of justice.
    • 2 – A mean of the 2 – democracies have no property qualifications or a small ones from assembly members. Oligarchies have a high one. This fusion has a mean of these 2 property qualifications.
    • 3 – Borrowing from oligarchical & democratic principles. Appointment of magistrates by lot is said to be democratic & election of them is oligarchical. Democracy has no property qualification while oligarchy has a high one. A fusion of the 2 can take features from both.
    • 4 – There’s true union of oligarchy & democracy when the state can be called either democracy or oligarchy. Those who used either will be sure the fusion is complete.
      • The mean appears but extremes of both will appear.
      • When citizens grow up to manhood & the same rule is observed & the distinction between the rich & the poor disappears when the rich wear the same clothes as the poor & eat at the same table as them.
        • People elect senators & ephors.
        • The Spartan government can be said to be an oligarchy because it has oligarchical elements. Offices are elected & not chosen by lot. The power of death or banishment, in the hands of the few.
        • A well-attempered polity will have both elements & will be neither a democracy or oligarchy.

Ch. 10

  • Forms of tyranny, both according to law
    • 1 – Barbarians elect monarchs who exercise despotic power.
    • 2 – Greek dictators (Aesymnetes)
      • These have royal aspects. Kings rule according to law but tyrants rule according to their whims.
    • 3 – Most typical – The arbitrary power of an individual, responsible to no one, governing all, to his own advantage & not to that of his subjects.

Ch. 11

  • What is the best constitution for most states? What’s the best for most men? Assuming no standard of virtue beyond ordinary citizens or an ideal state but a way of life most people have & a form of government most states can establish.
    • The aristocracies we’ve talked about are either beyond possibility for most states, or approximate a “constitutional government”
    • We said in Ethics Book 1, that a happy life is one according to virtue & virtue is a mean, & a mean attainable by everyone must be the best. The same principles of virtue & vice apply to cities & constitutions.
  • In all states, there are 3 elements – very rich, very poor & those in the middle class.
    • These in between have the best of both worlds – moderation. They’re most ready to follow a rational principle. Those with too much or too little have difficulty in following it. They are either criminals or rogues.
      • The middle class are less likely to shrink from government rule or to be over-ambitious.
      • Those with a lot won’t be willing to submit to an authority.
      • Those with too little are too degraded & must be ruled like slaves.
      • The rich despise others & the poor are jealous of others.
      • The city ought to be composed mostly of the middle class, neither hating one another, not being jealous of one another, being similar & equal.
    • Best political community is formed by the middle class, most likely to be well-administered & stranger, preventing the extremes to dominate. That would lead to extreme democracy or tyranny or oligarchy.
    • Large states are less liable to faction than smaller ones because the middle class is large. Smaller states are easier to divide.
      • Solony, Lycurgus & Charondas were all legislators & not rulers.
    • This will help us understand why most governments are either democracies or oligarchies – because the middle class isn’t usually large in them. When the rich or poor transgress the mean, they write the rules their own way, with political supremacy as a prize for victory.

Ch. 12

  • What kind of government is most suitable to what kind of man?
    • General principle of all governments is that the portion of the state that desires permanence of constitution than those who want it to change. Every city has quality & quantity.
      • Quality – freedom, wealth, education, good birth
      • Quantity – superior numbers
    • Quality may exist in one class of the state & quantity in the other.
      • The poor may be more numerous than the rich but fall short in quality. This leads to democracy.
      • When the rich exceed in quality than the poor have in quantity, you get an oligarchy.
    • The legislator should always include the middle class in the government whether the government is democratic or oligarchical. It stabilizes the country & makes the extremes fear each other less.
      • The middle class became the trusted arbiters, with a perfect admixture of elements to produce a long-lasting constitution.
    • But out of a false good can arise a true evil. The encroachment of the rich is worse than that of the people.

Ch. 13

  • 5 ways oligarchies deceive the people
    • 1 – The assembly
      • Assemblies are open to all but either the rich are fined for non-attendance or a large fine.
    • 2 – The magistrates
      • Those with property qualifications can’t refuse offices but the poor may
    • 3 – Courts of law
      • In courts of law, the rich are fined if they don’t serve but the poor are let off with impunity, or a large fine for the rich & a small one for the poor.
    • 4 – Use of arms
      • The poor don’t have to have arms but the rich are fined for not having them.
    • 5 – Gymnastic exercises
      • The poor aren’t fined for not attending gymnastics classes but the rich are
        • The poor pay to attend assemblies but no fine is imposed on the rich for non-attendance.
        • Government should be confined to those who carry arms. There can be no absolute rule for property qualification. But we must set the property qualification low enough to have the qualified be in the majority.
        • Securing gentle treatment of the poor isn’t easy because the ruling class isn’t always humane. In war, the poor are hesitant without being fed. When fed, they’re willing to fight.
        • The earliest government in Greece came from the warrior class, especially the knights because strength & superiority depended on the cavalry. Without discipline, the infantry are useless. In those times, there was no knowledge of tactics & the military relied on strength.
        • Once the size of cities grew, the heavily armed got a share in government.
        • Ancient constitutions were oligarchical & royal. Because the population was so small, there wasn’t a sizable middle class. The people were weak in number & were more contented to be governed.

Ch. 14

  • When the elements are well-ordered, the constitution is well-ordered
    • 1 – Deliberating public affairs
    • 2 – Concerned with magistracies – what they should be, what they should have authority over, how they should be elected.
    • 3 – Judicial power.
      • 1 – Deliberative element has authority in war & peace, making & unmaking alliances, passing laws, inflicting death, exile, confiscation, electing magistrates & auditing them.
        • Must be assigned to all or some, different cause to some or all.
        • Various ways all may have a share in government.
      • 2 – Magistrates meet & deliberate but come into office in turned, elected out of tribes & smallest divisions of the state until everyone’s had his turn.
        • The citizen are assembled only for legislation & consulting the constitution, & hear the edicts of the magistrates.
          • 1 – In some cases, citizens form one assembly but meet only to elect magistrates, pass laws, advice on war & peace & make scrutinies.
          • 2 – Other cases, matters are referred to special magistrates who are elected by vote.
          • 3 – Or, the citizens meet about elections to offices, make scrutinies, deliberate war & peace, & other matters are administered by magistrates who are elected by vote.
          • 4 – When all citizens meet to deliberate, the magistrates decide nothing but make preliminary inquiries.
        • When deliberative class is elected from the moderate qualification are numbers & respect/obey prohibitions of the law. Anyone who has required qualification shares in government. This case tends to polity.
          • Only when selected individuals & not the whole people have a share in the deliberation, the government is a pure oligarchy.
        • When those with power of deliberation are self-elected – they & not the laws are supreme.
        • Government is an aristocracy when the whole people decide on war & peace & hold scrutinies, but magistrates decide everything else.
        • Partly oligarchy, partly constitutional when there is a mixture of magistrates chosen by vote & by lot.
      • 3 – It’s in the interest of democracy to adopt oligarchical customs for law to get better deliberation, because in oligarchies, the rich are wanted to be judges & are compelled to do so under pain of fine, where in a democracy, the poor are paid to attend.
        • The practice of oligarchies should be adopted by democracies in public assemblies because they will advise better together.
        • It’s also a good plan that those who deliberate should be elected by vote or by lot in equal numbers from different classes.
          • If one class exceeds another, something should be done to rebalance the numbers.
          • In oligarchies, there should be at least some people elected from the mass or a class of officers should be elected who are called the probuli or the guardians of the law.
          • Citizens should occupy themselves on matters decided by those officers, giving them some share in the state but they can’t disturb the constitution.
          • Either the people ought to accept measures of the government or not pass anything contrary to them. If all are allowed a share in counsel. They decide who should be in the magistrates.
            • Oligarchies – veto should be with the majority & final – & the proposal will be sent back to the magistrates.
            • Constitutions – the few have negative power & the affirmation of everything rests with the majority.

Ch. 15

  • Distribution of offices – Questions:
    • How many should there be?
    • What should they preside over?
    • What duration will the offices have?
      • Sometimes 6 months, or longer, or even for life.
      • Can these people hold the office again or do they have to wait some period before holding it again? Or is it “one & done”?
    • How will the people in office be chosen?
      • Where do the candidates come from? The landed classes? The general public?
        • Some positions will be oligarchical in nature & some democratic
      • How are they chosen? By vote or by lot?
    • Can these positions be combined?
      • Some states don’t have many choices for candidates & the jobs aren’t full-time, & thus can be combined.
      • Some jobs, while elected, aren’t explicitly political, while others are explicitly political. Perhaps it would be beneficial for some to be elected & others to be selected by lot.
      • Some jobs may only apply to certain portions of the population – care for children, care for women. Should both jobs be combined or kept separate?
      • Sometimes small states can do without some positions or only one, while larger ones will need them & sometimes several people in them.
    • We should also know which offices are more suited to oligarchical functions v. democratic.

Ch. 16

  • Judicial Functions – 3 questions:
    • 1 – Are judges chosen from all or just from some?
    • 2 – How many kinds of judges will there be?
    • 3 – Are judges chosen by vote or by lot?
  • 8 kinds of courts
    • 1 – Audits & scrutinies
    • 2 – Ordinary offenses
    • 3 – Treason
    • 4 – Penalties
    • 5 – Civil Cases
    • 6 – Homicide
    • 7 – For Foreigners
    • 8 – Small Suits
  • Political cases, when mismanaged can create division & disturbances in the constitution.
    • Judges can be appointed by vote or lot & either from all the population or from only some.
    • Modes of appointment can be combined

 

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