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[1286a] [1] and one whether it is expedient or inexpedient for one man to be sovereign over everything. Now the study of a military command of the kind mentioned has more the aspect of a legal than of a constitutional inquiry (for it is possible for this form of office to exist under all constitutions), so let it be dismissed at the first stage1; but the remaining mode of kingship is a kind of constitution, so that it is necessary to consider this one and to run over the difficulties that it involves.

And the starting-point of the inquiry is the question whether it is more advantageous to be ruled by the best men or by the best laws. Those of the opinion that it is advantageous to be governed by a king think that laws enunciate only general principles but do not give directions for dealing with circumstances as they arise; so that in an art of any kind it is foolish to govern procedure by written rules (and indeed in Egypt physicians have the right to alter their prescription after four days, although if one of them alters it before he does so at his own risk); it is clear therefore that government according to written rules, that is laws, is not the best, for the same reason. At the same time, however, rulers ought to be in possession of the general principle before mentioned as well. And a thing that does not contain the emotional element is generally superior to a thing in which it is innate; now the law does not possess this factor, but every human soul [20] necessarily has it. But perhaps someone might say that in compensation for this a single ruler will decide better about particular cases. Therefore it is clear that on the one hand the ruler must necessarily be a legislator, and that there must or be laws laid down, although these must not be sovereign2 where they go astray—admittedly in all other cases they ought to be sovereign; but on the other hand in matters which it is impossible for the law either to decide at all or to decide well, ought the one best man to govern or all the citizens? As it is, the citizens assembled hear lawsuits and deliberate and give judgements, but these judgements are all on particular cases. Now no doubt any one of them individually is inferior compared with the best man, but a state consists of a number of individuals, and just as a banquet to which many contribute dishes is finer than a single plain dinner, for this reason in many cases a crowd judges better than any single person. Also the multitude is more incorruptible—just as the larger stream of water is purer, so the mass of citizens is less corruptible than the few; and the individual's judgement is bound to be corrupted when he is overcome by anger or some other such emotion, whereas in the other case it is a difficult thing for all the people to be roused to anger and go wrong together. But the multitude must consist of the freemen, doing nothing apart from the law except about matters as to which the law must of necessity be deficient. And if this is not indeed easy to ensure in the case of many men, yet if there were a majority of good men and good citizens, would an individual make a more incorruptible ruler or rather those who though the majority in number yet are all good?

1 Cf. 1289a 11 ff.; but the promise of a full discussion of law is not fulfilled

2 i.e. unalterably binding, and not be set aside by special dispensation of the ruler when deemed to be unjust in some particular case.

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