Justice and Taxes: Aristotle and Plato Say Just Enough

Aristotle, Magna Moralia 1194a

“For example, it is fair that one who possesses much should pay a lot in taxes while one who has little should pay little”

οἷον ἀνάλογόν ἐστιν τὸν τὰ πολλὰ κεκτημένον πολλὰ εἰσφέρειν, τὸν δὲ τὰ ὀλίγα κεκτημένον ὀλίγα·

Plato, Republic 8 (568e)

“But, I was saying, we have wandered off topic. Let’s talk again about the tyrant’s camp, how he is going to pay for such a large and strange crew that’s never in the same place.

He said, “it is clear that if there is any money sacred to the state, he will spend it as long as what is left over remains, so that he can demand fewer taxes from the population.”

Ἀλλὰ δή, εἶπον, ἐνταῦθα μὲν ἐξέβημεν· λέγωμεν δὲ πάλιν ἐκεῖνο τὸ τοῦ τυράννου στρατόπεδον, τὸ καλόν τε καὶ πολὺ καὶ | ποικίλον καὶ οὐδέποτε ταὐτόν, πόθεν θρέψεται.

Δῆλον, ἔφη, ὅτι, ἐάν τε ἱερὰ χρήματα ᾖ ἐν τῇ πόλει, ταῦτα ἀναλώσει, ὅποι ποτὲ ἂν ἀεὶ ἐξαρκῇ τὰ τῶν ἀποδομένων, ἐλάττους εἰσφορὰς ἀναγκάζων τὸν δῆμον εἰσφέρειν.

Plato, Republic 1 (343e)

“As matters of state go, whenever there are taxes, the just person pays in more from the same amount on which the unjust man pays less. And when there are refunds, the former takes nothing while the lesser profits a lot.”

ἔπειτα ἐν τοῖς πρὸς τὴν πόλιν, ὅταν τέ τινες εἰσφοραὶ ὦσιν, ὁ μὲν δίκαιος ἀπὸ τῶν ἴσων πλέον εἰσφέρει, ὁ δ’ ἔλαττον, ὅταν τε λήψεις, ὁ μὲν οὐδέν, ὁ δὲ πολλὰ κερδαίνει.

 

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Justice and Taxes: Aristotle and Plato Say Just Enough

Aristotle, Magna Moralia 1194a

“For example, it is fair that one who possesses much should pay a lot in taxes while one who has little should pay little”

οἷον ἀνάλογόν ἐστιν τὸν τὰ πολλὰ κεκτημένον πολλὰ εἰσφέρειν, τὸν δὲ τὰ ὀλίγα κεκτημένον ὀλίγα·

Plato, Republic 8 (568e)

“But, I was saying, we have wandered off topic. Let’s talk again about the tyrant’s camp, how he is going to pay for such a large and strange crew that’s never in the same place.

He said, “it is clear that if there is any money sacred to the state, he will spend it as long as what is left over remains, so that he can demand fewer taxes from the population.”

Ἀλλὰ δή, εἶπον, ἐνταῦθα μὲν ἐξέβημεν· λέγωμεν δὲ πάλιν ἐκεῖνο τὸ τοῦ τυράννου στρατόπεδον, τὸ καλόν τε καὶ πολὺ καὶ | ποικίλον καὶ οὐδέποτε ταὐτόν, πόθεν θρέψεται.

Δῆλον, ἔφη, ὅτι, ἐάν τε ἱερὰ χρήματα ᾖ ἐν τῇ πόλει, ταῦτα ἀναλώσει, ὅποι ποτὲ ἂν ἀεὶ ἐξαρκῇ τὰ τῶν ἀποδομένων, ἐλάττους εἰσφορὰς ἀναγκάζων τὸν δῆμον εἰσφέρειν.

Plato, Republic 1 (343e)

“As matters of state go, whenever there are taxes, the just person pays in more from the same amount on which the unjust man pays less. And when there are refunds, the former takes nothing while the lesser profits a lot.”

ἔπειτα ἐν τοῖς πρὸς τὴν πόλιν, ὅταν τέ τινες εἰσφοραὶ ὦσιν, ὁ μὲν δίκαιος ἀπὸ τῶν ἴσων πλέον εἰσφέρει, ὁ δ’ ἔλαττον, ὅταν τε λήψεις, ὁ μὲν οὐδέν, ὁ δὲ πολλὰ κερδαίνει.

 

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Injustice: A Greater Portion of Good; A Lesser Share of Evils

Demosthenes, Against Olympiodorus 46

“This is the greatest sign of all, jurors, by which you will know that this man is an unjust and selfish person.”

ὃ δὲ πάντων μέγιστόν ἐστιν, ὦ ἄνδρες δικασταί, ᾧ καὶ γνώσεσθε ταυτονὶ ὅτι ἄδικός ἐστιν καὶ πλεονέκτης ἄνθρωπος·

Pleonektes

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1129b (Book 5)

“Let us consider now how many ways a man may be called unjust. It is indeed clear that a man who breaks laws is unjust but so is someone who is greedy and inegalitarian—thus it is clear that the just man will be law-abiding and fair. Justice, then, is lawful and fair; injustice is unlawful and unfair.

Since the unjust man someone who is greedy, he will be selfish regarding good things, not everything, but those things upon which good fortune and bad fortune rely—those things which are universally always good but not always for the same person. People pray for these things and pursue them; it is not right, however, that they pray for things which are universally good and good for them, but that they choose things that are just good for them.

The unjust man does not always choose the larger portion;for he will choose the smaller portion of bad things. But even here he is more selfish of the good because he appears to take on less evil, which is a type of good, and for that reason he seems greedy. He should be called unfair. This also embraces the common sense.”

εἰλήφθω δὴ ὁ ἄδικος ποσαχῶς λέγεται. δοκεῖ δὴ ὅ τε παράνομος ἄδικος εἶναι καὶ ὁ πλεονέκτης καὶ ἄνισος, ὥστε δῆλον ὅτι καὶ [ὁ] δίκαιος ἔσται ὅ τε νόμιμος καὶ ὁ ἴσος. τὸ μὲν δίκαιον ἄρα τὸ νόμιμον καὶ τὸ ἴσον, τὸ  δ’ ἄδικον τὸ παράνομον καὶ τὸ ἄνισον. ἐπεὶ δὲ πλεονέκτης ὁ ἄδικος, περὶ τἀγαθὰ ἔσται, οὐ πάντα, ἀλλὰ περὶ ὅσα εὐτυχία καὶ ἀτυχία, ἃ ἐστὶ μὲν ἁπλῶς ἀεὶ ἀγαθά, τινὶ δ’ οὐκ ἀεί. οἱ δ’ ἄνθρωποι ταῦτα εὔχονται καὶ διώκουσιν· δεῖ δ’ οὔ, ἀλλ’ εὔχεσθαι μὲν τὰ ἁπλῶς ἀγαθὰ καὶ αὑτοῖς ἀγαθὰ εἶναι, αἱρεῖσθαι δὲ τὰ αὑτοῖς ἀγαθά. ὁ δ’ ἄδικος οὐκ ἀεὶ τὸ πλέον αἱρεῖται, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ἔλαττον ἐπὶ τῶν ἁπλῶς κακῶν· ἀλλ’ ὅτι δοκεῖ καὶ τὸ μεῖον κακὸν ἀγαθόν πως εἶναι, τοῦ δ’ ἀγαθοῦ ἐστὶν ἡ πλεονεξία, διὰ τοῦτο δοκεῖ πλεονέκτης εἶναι. ἔστι δ’ ἄνισος· τοῦτο γὰρ περιέχει καὶ κοινόν.

 

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Corrupt Leaders Make Corrupt Countries: Hesiod, Works and Days, 217-229

“Oath runs right alongside crooked judgments.
But a roar comes from Justice as she is dragged where
bribe-devouring men lead when they apply laws with crooked judgments.
She attends the city and the haunts of the hosts
weeping and cloaked in mist, bringing evil to men
who drive her out and do not practice righteous law.
For those who give fair judgments to foreigners and citizens
and who do not transgress the law in any way,
cities grow strong, and the people flourish within them;
A child-nourishing peace settles on the land, and never
Does wide-browed Zeus sound the sign of harsh war.”

αὐτίκα γὰρ τρέχει ῞Ορκος ἅμα σκολιῇσι δίκῃσιν·
τῆς δὲ Δίκης ῥόθος ἑλκομένης ᾗ κ’ ἄνδρες ἄγωσι
δωροφάγοι, σκολιῇς δὲ δίκῃς κρίνωσι θέμιστας·
ἣ δ’ ἕπεται κλαίουσα πόλιν καὶ ἤθεα λαῶν,
ἠέρα ἑσσαμένη, κακὸν ἀνθρώποισι φέρουσα,
οἵ τέ μιν ἐξελάσωσι καὶ οὐκ ἰθεῖαν ἔνειμαν.
οἳ δὲ δίκας ξείνοισι καὶ ἐνδήμοισι διδοῦσιν
ἰθείας καὶ μή τι παρεκβαίνουσι δικαίου,
τοῖσι τέθηλε πόλις, λαοὶ δ’ ἀνθεῦσιν ἐν αὐτῇ·
εἰρήνη δ’ ἀνὰ γῆν κουροτρόφος, οὐδέ ποτ’ αὐτοῖς
ἀργαλέον πόλεμον τεκμαίρεται εὐρύοπα Ζεύς·