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[1283b] [1] I mean, that is, the good and the wealthy and noble and also an additional mass of citizens, will there be a dispute, or will there not, as to who ought to govern? It is true that under each of the forms of constitution that have been mentioned the decision as to who ought to govern is undisputed (for the difference between them lies in their sovereign classes—one is distinguished by being governed by the rich men, one by being governed by the good men, and similarly each of the others); but nevertheless we are considering the question how we are to decide between these classes supposing that they all exist in the state at the same period.

If then the possessors of virtue should be quite few in number, how is the decision to be made? ought we to consider their fewness in relation to the task, and whether they are able to administer the state, or sufficiently numerous to constitute a state? And there is some difficulty as regards all the rival claimants to political honors. Those who claim to rule because of their wealth might seem to have no justice in their proposal, and similarly also those who claim on the score of birth; for it is clear that if, to go a step further, a single individual is richer than all the others together, according to the same principle of justice it will obviously be right for this one man to rule over all, and similarly the man of outstanding nobility among the claimants [20] on the score of free birth. And this same thing will perhaps result in the case of aristocratic government based on virtue; for if there be some one man who is better than the other virtuous men in the state, by the same principle of justice that man must be sovereign. Accordingly if it is actually proper for the multitude to be sovereign because they are better than the few, then also, if one person or if more than one but fewer than the many are better than the rest, it would be proper for these rather than the multitude to be sovereign. All these considerations therefore seem to prove the incorrectness of all of the standards on which men claim that they themselves shall govern and everybody else be governed by them. For surely even against those who claim to be sovereign over the government on account of virtue, and similarly against those who claim on account of wealth, the multitudes might be able to advance a just plea; for it is quite possible that at some time the multitude may be collectively better and richer than the few, although not individually.

Hence it is also possible to meet in this way the question which some persons investigate and put forward (for some raise the question whether the legislator desiring to lay down the rightest laws should legislate with a view to the advantage of the better people or that of the larger number) in cases when the situation mentioned1 occurs. And ‘right’ must be taken in the sense of ‘equally right,’ and this means right in regard to the interest of the whole state and in regard to the common welfare of the citizens; and a citizen is in general one who shares in governing and being governed,

1 At the end of the last sentence, 7.12.

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