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[857a] shall apply to the three cases of the traitor, the temple-robber, and the man who wrecks the State laws by violence. For the thief also, whether he steals a great thing or a small, one law and one legal penalty shall be enacted for all alike1: first, he must pay twice the value of the stolen article, if he loses his case and possesses enough property over and above his allotment wherewith to pay; but if not, he must be put in prison until either he has paid the sum or has been let off by the prosecutor. And if a man be cast in a suit for theft from the State, [857b] on obtaining pardon from the State, or after payment of double the sum stolen, he shall be let out of prison.

How comes it, Stranger, that we are ruling that it makes no difference to the thief whether the thing he steals be great or small, and whether the place it is stolen from be holy or unhallowed, or whatever other differences may exist in the manner of a theft; whereas the lawgiver ought to suit the punishment to the crime by inflicting dissimilar penalties in these varying cases?

Well said, Clinias! You have collided with me [857c] when I was going, as it were, full steam ahead, and so have woken me up. You have reminded me of a previous reflection of mine, how that none of the attempts hitherto made at legislation have ever been carried out rightly—as in fact we may infer from the instance before us. What do I mean to imply by this remark? It was no bad comparison we made2 when we compared all existing legislation to the doctoring of slaves by slaves. For one should carefully notice this, that if any of the doctors who practice medicine by purely empirical methods, [857d] devoid of theory, were to come upon a free-born doctor conversing with a free-born patient, and using arguments, much as a philosopher would, dealing with the course of the ailment from its origin and surveying the natural constitution of the human body,—he would at once break out into a roar of laughter, and the language he would use would be none other than that which always comes ready to the tongue of most so-called “doctors”: “You fool,” he would say, “you are not doctoring your patient, but schooling him, so to say, as though what he wanted was to be made, not a sound man, [857e] but a doctor.”

And in saying so, would he not be right?

Possibly, provided that he should also take the view that the man who treats of laws in the way that we are now doing is schooling the citizens rather than legislating. Would he not seem to be right in saying that, too?


How fortunate we are in the conclusion we have now come to!

What conclusion?

This,—that there is no need to legislate,

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