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[1263a] [1] I mean, even if there be separate families as is now the case with all nations, is it better for both the ownership and the employment of property to be in common. . . ,1 for example, should the farms be separate property but the farm-produce be brought into the common stock for consumption (as is the practice with some non-Greek races); or on the contrary should the land be common and farmed in common, but the produce be divided for private use (and this form of communism also is said to prevail among some of the barbarians); or should both farms and produce be common property? Now if the tillers of the soil be of a different class2 there might be another and easier system, but if the citizens do the work for themselves, the regulations for the common ownership of property would give more causes for discontent; for if both in the enjoyment of the produce and in the work of production they prove not equal but unequal, complaints are bound to arise between those who enjoy or take much but work little and those who take less but work more. And in general to live together and share all our human affairs is difficult, and especially to share such things as these. And this is shown in the partnerships of fellow-travellers, for almost the greatest number of them quarrel because they come into collision with one another as a result of ordinary matters and trifles; and also we come into collision most with those of our servants [20] whom we employ most often for ordinary attendance. Community of property therefore involves these and other similar difficulties; and the present system, if further improved by good morals and by the regulation of correct legislation, would be greatly superior. For it will possess the merit of both systems, by which I mean the advantage of property being common and the advantage of its being private. For property ought to be common in a sense but private speaking absolutely. For the superintendence of properties being divided among the owners will not cause these mutual complaints, and will improve the more because each will apply himself to it as to private business of his own; while on the other hand virtue will be exercised to make ‘friends' goods common goods,’ as the proverb3 goes, for the purpose of use. Such a system exists even now in outline in some states, showing that it is not impracticable, and especially in the ones that are well-administered parts of it are realized already and parts might be realized; for individuals while owning their property privately put their own possessions at the service of their friends and make use of their friends' possessions as common property; for instance in Sparta people use one another's slaves as virtually their own, as well as horses and hounds, and also use the produce in the fields throughout the country if they need provisions on a journey. It is clear therefore that it is better for possessions to be privately owned, but to make them common property in use; and to train the citizens to this is the special task of the legislator. And moreover to feel that a thing is one's private property makes an inexpressibly great difference for pleasure; for the universal feeling of love for oneself is surely not purposeless, but a natural instinct.

1 Something has clearly been lost here, signifying ‘or should there be some limited form of communism?’

2 i.e. a class of serfs, like the Helots at Sparta.

3 The saying was ascribed to Pythgagoras.

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