Aristotle – Politics Book 6

Ch. 1

  • We need to discuss mods of organization & advantages to each form of government. We also need to consider the possible combinations. Some make democracies more oligarchical & some make oligarchies more democratic.
    • The combinations will be in deliberation, election of officers & law courts. Some are oligarchical & some democratic. When used in opposite methods, there’s a lack of harmony in the state.
    • We have to show which government is best for each state & then consider how these forms of government are to be established.
    • Talking of democracy, we need to understand all the elements & characteristics of a democracy. They often have major differences due to:
      • A – Differences in population – the popular element may be made of farmers, mechanics, laborers, etc.
      • B – Various properties & characteristics of democracy, when combined in varieties, make a difference.
        • One will have less of one & more of another.
        • Knowing this is important when establishing a new democracy or remodeling an old one.
        • Founders try to tie the elements together in harmony.

Ch. 2

  • The basis of a democracy is liberty, which according to most men, can only be enjoyed in such a state. So liberty is the goal of a democracy.
    • One principle is for all to rule & all to be ruled. Democratic justice is the must be supreme. Whether it approves is the goal & the just.
    • Every citizen must have equality, which means the poor must have more power than the rich because they are more numerous.
    • Another note of liberty is that a man should live as he likes because not being able to is the mark of a slave.
  • Characteristics of a democracy:
    • A – Election of officers by all from the whole. Each should have a turn over all. These done with skill requirements should be done by lot. There is to be no or a very small property qualification. Judges & magistrates should have scrutiny of accounts, the constitution & private contracts. The assembly will be supreme over all causes, magistrates over none.
    • B – Payment for services: assembly, law courts, magistrates – everyone receives pay when the money is there to be had.
    • C – No magistracy is perpetual. Any surviving from an older constitution should be stripped of its power & holders of office are to be chosen by lot & not by vote.

Ch. 3

  • How is equality to be obtained? Assign 1000 men the property qualifications of 500 rich men? Should we take equal numbers of each group & put them in charge of elections & courts?
    • The democratic notion hold the majority’s will is just. Oligarchs hold what they think as just – based on property.
    • Both ideas have bits of inequality & injustice in them.
      • If justice is the will of the few, based on wealth or property qualifications, the one with the most property & wealth should rule alone. But that would be tyranny.
    • Both agree that the majority’s will should be law but not without reservation. There are 2 classes – rich & poor – & if there’s a disagreement. It can be referred to the opinion of a greater number or a great qualification.
      • If the assembly or courts are divided, the recourse is done by lot.
    • It may be difficult to decide what’s just & equal but know that the weaker beg for equality & just – & the strong don’t want those.

Ch. 4

  • The best kind of democracy comes out of an agricultural population. They have no leisure, don’t often attend assembly, are always at work & don’t covet others’ property.
    • When they enjoy their work more than government offices or offices that don’t make a lot of money, it’s best.
    • Ancient tyrannies & oligarchies are tolerable if they’re allowed to work & keep their property.
    • They have the power to elect magistrates & call them to account. That satisfies their ambition. If they have power of deliberation, they are happy.
      • So it’s best that this type of democracy has great offices filled through elections of people with qualifications, & do selections of judges & conduct scrutinies the same way.
      • The & the notables will be satisfied because they won’t be governed by inferiors.
      • Every man should be responsible to others. He shouldn’t be allowed to have absolute freedom. Responsibility is a principle in this case because it secures the greatest good, the best ruler & the highest prevention of wrong.
      • Some older democracies were easiest with respect to a population made up mostly of farmers. They just held no man should have more than a certain amount of land or be able to sell his original allotment.
        • The next best things to this are:
          • A – Pastoral people – robust, prepared for war & able to camp out.
            • Farmers & herders don’t have time for assemblies & government. The assemblies shouldn’t meet when those in the countryside can’t come.
          • B – Where all are completely equal. Most states can’t handle this & won’t last unless there’s a mountain of laws & customs
            • Leaders have to make citizens not just of the legitimate but illegitimate. This is how demagogues begin. Excess leads to disorder & the notables get nervous.
          • Every contrivance should be adopted to mingle citizens with each other & get rid of old connections to make things purely democratic & orderly.

Ch. 5

  • Establishing democracy isn’t enough. What’s more important & far harder is maintaining it. The legislator should have a good foundation of the above principles & be able to guard against destructive elements by making laws (written or unwritten).
    • The best measure aren’t necessarily the one that aren’t purely democratic or oligarchical but the ones that allow the government to last the longest.
    • Demagogues often confiscate property in order to please the people.
      • Those who have the welfare of the state in mind should counteract them & make laws that the property of the condemned shouldn’t revert to the public. Offenders will still be afraid because the possibility of punishment is still there but the public won’t benefit for him.
      • State trials were as few as possible & those who would bring baseless accusations should be severely punished or fined.
    • In the last & worst of democracy, there are very many citizens & can be barely bothered to come to assembly unless we pay them. Paying them when there’s no money to spend will impose greatly upon the rich. In that case, assemblies should be seldom, law courts should consist of many people but only sit for a few days. This system has 2 advantages:
      • A – The rich don’t fear the expense.
      • B – Causes are tried better.
    • Where there are revenues, demagogues shouldn’t be allowed to redistribute them – the people will always want more.
      • A true friend of the poor should see that they’re not too poor. Extreme poverty lowers one’s character. Measures should be taken to give the poor prosperity. This might mean using the proceeds of public revenues distributed to the poor to buy a farm or start a trade. If you can’t give them to individual poor people, it should be pooled & given to their tribes.
    • An idea is to divide all offices into 2 classes:
      • A – By vote – to have the best administration.
      • B – By lot – to have all people participate.

Ch. 6

  • What should be the constitution of oligarchies?
    • The best attempered oligarchies are like constitutional government. There should be 2 standards of qualifications.
      • A – High – for superior offices.
      • B – Low – for lower offices (still necessary ones though).
    • Those with the necessary requires should be citizens. Their admission will render the state stronger. New citizens should be taken out of higher class of people.
    • This principle leads to another form of oligarchy until we get to the most cliquish & tyrannical. It requires vigilance in proportion to its badness. Populousness of democracies generally preserves them.
      • The preservation of an oligarchy depends on good order.

Ch. 7

  • 4 divisions of common people – farmers, mechanics, retailers & laborers.
  • 4 kinds of military forces – cavalry, heavy infantry, light-armed troops & the navy.
    • When the geography is suited to cavalry, a strong oligarchy is likely because to have such a force requires lots of horses & only rich men can keep them.
    • Another oligarchy leads to heavy infantry – best for the rich.
    • The light-armed & navy are best suited to democracy.
    • The best quarrels combine the forces of the cavalry, light-armed troops. Once out of youth, they should become light-armed warriors.
    • An oligarchy should give a share in government to the people – to those with a qualification or from those who hadn’t been working mean work recently.
    • The highest ranks should have expensive duties so that the people won’t want them & won’t be jealous or want a change in government.
      • These days oligarchs are covetous of gain & honor. These oligarchies resemble petty monarchies.

Ch. 8

  • We’ve talked about the right distribution offices, how many, their nature & duties. No state can be administered without offices that preserve harmony & order.
    • In small states, you can’t have many of these offices.
    • In large states, you must have many. Some can be combined & some have to be kept separate.
      • 1 – Care of the market. This includes contract enforcement & safety to allow supply & demand to meet one another.
      • 2 – Supervision & embellishment of public & private buildings, maintaining houses & roads, prevention of boundary disputes.
      • 3 – Supervision of the countryside.
      • 4 – Receiver of taxes & maintaining the treasury.
      • 5 – Registrar of private contracts & court decisions.
      • 6 – Executioner or punishments & custody of prisoners.
        • Easily the most hated job. It shouldn’t be entrusted to just one person. Good men will all they can to avoid it but it has to be done to maintain respect for the law.
        • There ought not be one single permanent officer.
      • Military positions, where the city’s army is divided into the different categories of cavalry, heavy infantry, light-armed troops & the navy should have generals or admirals devoted to each branch.
      • Those who handle public money will have different names: scrutineers, auditors, accountants & controllers.
      • There is an office supreme over all the above, responsible for the introduction & ratification of measures.
        • Called probuli, councilors, etc.
      • Also maintenance of religion: priests & guardians of the temples. In small cities, you can have just one. In large cities, you’ll need many.
        • Priesthood, superintendents of public worship, guardians of shrines, treasurers of sacred revenues, offices for performance of public sacrifices.
      • Necessary offices summed up: Regarding religion, war, revenues & expenditures, markets, the city, harbors, courts, contracts, execution of sentences, custody of prisoners, scrutinies over magistrates & public deliberations.
        • Magistracies characteristic of states which are peaceful & prosperous & look after good order – guardians of women, & of children, director of gymnastics, of Dionysiac contests & of spectacles.
        • 3 higher offices:
          • In democracies – council
          • In oligarchies – probuli
          • In aristocracies – guardians of the law

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