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[1294a] [1] And it seems an impossibility for a city governed not by the aristocracy but by the base to have well-ordered government, and similarly also for a city that has not a well-ordered government to be governed aristocratically. But to have good laws enacted but not obey them does not constitute well-ordered government. Hence one form of good government must be understood to consist in the laws enacted being obeyed, and another form in the laws which the citizens keep being well enacted (for it is possible to obey badly enacted laws). And for laws to be well enacted is possible in two ways: they must either be the best laws possible for the given people or the best absolutely. But aristocracy in the fullest sense seems to consist in the distribution of the honors according to virtue; for virtue is the defining factor of aristocracy, as wealth is of oligarchy, and freedom of democracy (while the principle that a decision of the majority is supreme is found in them all: for in both oligarchy and aristocracy and democracies whatever the larger part of those who have a share in the government decides is supreme). In most states1 then the name of aristocracy is given to that form of constitutional government,2 for the combination aims only at the well-off and the poor, wealth and freedom (since in almost the largest number of states the rich seem to occupy the place of the gentry); but as there are three things that claim equal participation [20] in the constitution, freedom, wealth and virtue (for the fourth, what is called nobility, accompanies the two latter—nobility means ancient wealth and virtue), it is manifest that the mixture of the two factors, the rich and the poor,3 ought to be termed constitutional government, while the mixture of the three factors deserves the name of aristocracy most of all the various forms of aristocracy beside the true and best form.

It has then been stated that other forms of constitution also exist besides monarchy, democracy and oligarchy, and what their characteristics are, and how the various sorts of aristocracy and of constitutional government differ from one another; and it is manifest that aristocracy and constitutional government are not widely apart from one another.

Next to what has been said let us state the way in which what is called constitutional government comes into existence by the side of democracy and oligarchy, and how it is proper to establish it. At the same time the defining characteristics of democracy and oligarchy will also be clear; for we must grasp the distinction between these and then make a combination out of them, taking, so to say, a contribution from each. And there are three principles determining this combination or mixture. Under one plan we must adopt both features from the legislative schemes of the two different constitutions: for example, in regard to the administration of justice, in oligarchies they institute a fine for the rich if they do not serve on juries but no pay for the poor for serving, while in democracies they assign pay for the poor but no fine for the rich, but a common and intermediate principle is to have both payment and fine, and therefore this is a mark of a constitutional government, since it is a mixture of elements from both oligarchy and democracy.

1 i.e. in most states that are considered aristocracies.

2 i.e. the more oligarchical form, 1293b 36.

3 Loosely put for ‘wealth and free birth.’

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