The next move in our settling of the laws is one that might at first hearing cause surprise because of its unusual character—like the move of a draughts-player who quits his “sacred line” ;1
none the less, it will be clear to him who reasons it out and uses experience that a State will probably have a constitution no higher than second in point of excellence. Probably one might refuse to accept this, owing to unfamiliarity with lawgivers who are not also despots:2
but it is, in fact, the most correct plan to describe the best polity, and the second best, and the third, and after describing them to give the choice to the individual who is charged with the founding of the settlement.
This plan let us now adopt: let us state the polities which rank first, second, and third in excellence; and the choice let us hand over to Clinias and to whosoever else may at any time wish, ill proceeding to the selection of such things, to take over, according to his own disposition, what he values in his own country. That State and polity come first, and those laws are best, where there is observed as carefully as possible
throughout the whole State the old saying3
that “friends have all things really in common.” As to this condition,—whether it anywhere exists now, or ever will exist,—in which there is community of wives, children, and all chattels, and all that is called “private” is everywhere and by every means rooted out of our life, and so far as possible it is contrived that even things naturally “private” have become in a way “communized,” —eyes, for instance, and ears and hands seem to see, hear, and act in common,—
and that all men are, so far as possible, unanimous in the praise and blame they bestow, rejoicing and grieving at the same things, and that they honor with all their heart those laws which render the State as unified as possible,—no one will ever lay down another definition that is truer or better than these conditions in point of super-excellence. In such a State,—be it gods or sons of gods that dwell in it,—they dwell pleasantly, living such a life as this. Wherefore one should not look elsewhere
for a model constitution, but hold fast to this one, and with all one's power seek the constitution that is as like to it as possible. That constitution which we are now engaged upon, if it came into being, would be very near to immortality, and would come second in point of merit. The third we shall investigate hereafter, if God so will; for the present, however, what is this second best polity, and how would it come to be of such a character? First, let them portion out the land and houses,