Ktēseis

working the land

Ἐχόμενον δὲ τούτων ἐστὶν ἐπισκέψασθαι περὶ τῆς κτήσεως, τίνα τρόπον δεῖ κατασκευάζεσθαι τοῖς μέλλουσι πολιτεύεσθαι τὴν ἀρίστην πολιτείαν, πότερον κοινὴν ἢ μὴ κοινὴν εἶναι τὴν κτῆσιν. τοῦτο δ’ ἄν τις καὶ χωρὶς σκέψαιτο ἀπὸ τῶν περὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ τὰς γυναῖκας νενομοθετημένων, λέγω [δὲ τὰ περὶ τὴν κτῆσιν] πότερον, κἂν ᾖ ἐκεῖνα χωρὶς, καθ’ ὃν νῦν τρόπον ἔχει πᾶσι, τάς τε κτήσεις κοινὰς εἶναι βέλτιον καὶ τὰς χρήσεις . . . , οἷον τὰ μὲν γήπεδα χωρὶς τοὺς δὲ καρποὺς εἰς τὸ κοινὸν φέροντας ἀναλίσκειν (ὅπερ ἔνια ποιεῖ τῶν ἐθνῶν), ἢ τοὐναντίον τὴν μὲν γῆν κοινὴν εἶναι καὶ γεωργεῖν κοινῇ, τοὺς δὲ καρποὺς διαιρεῖσθαι πρὸς τὰς ἰδίας χρήσεις (λέγονται δέ τινες καὶ τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον κοινωνεῖν τῶν βαρβάρων), ἢ καὶ τὰ γήπεδα καὶ τοὺς καρποὺς κοινούς. ἑτέρων μὲν οὖν ὄντων τῶν γεωργούντων, ἄλλος ἂν εἴη τρόπος καὶ ῥᾴων, αὐτῶν δ’ αὑτοῖς διαπονούντων τὰ περὶ τὰς κτήσεις πλείους ἂν παρέχοι δυσκολίας. καὶ γὰρ ἐν ταῖς ἀπολαύσεσι καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις μὴ γινομένων ἴσων, ἀναγκαῖον ἐγκλήματα γίνεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς ἀπολαύοντας μὲν ἢ λαμβάνοντας πολλὰ ὀλίγα δὲ πονοῦντας τοῖς ἐλάττω μὲν λαμβάνουσι, πλείω δὲ πονοῦσιν. ὅλως δὲ τὸ συζῆν καὶ κοινωνεῖν τῶν ἀνθρωπικῶν πάντων χαλεπόν, καὶ μάλιστα τῶν τοιούτων. δηλοῦσι δ’ αἱ τῶν συναποδήμων κοινωνίαι, σχεδὸν γὰρ οἱ πλεῖστοι διαφέρονται ἐκ τῶν ἐν ποσὶ καὶ ἐκ μικρῶν προσκρούοντες ἀλλήλοις· ἔτι δὲ τῶν θεραπόντων τούτοις μάλιστα προσκρούομεν οἷς πλεῖστα προσχρώμεθα πρὸς τὰς διακονίας τὰς ἐγκυκλίους.
(Aristotle, Pol. 1262b37-1263a21)

Connected with the foregoing is the question of property. What arrangements should be made about it, if people are going to operate the best possible constitution? Should it be held in common or not ? This question may well be considered in isolation from the legislation about children and wives. A possible answer is that while they should belong to individuals, as is the universal practice, it would be better that either property or its use should be communal. In the latter case the plots of land are in private hands and its produce pooled for common use (as is done by some foreign nations); in the former, the land is communally held and communally worked but its produce is distributed according to individual requirements. This is a form of communal ownership which is said to exist among certain non-Greek peoples. There is also the alternative that both the land and its produce be owned communally. As to its cultivation, a different system will run more smoothly, i.e. if the land is worked by others, because, if they themselves work for their own benefit, there will be greater ill-feeling about the ownership. For if the work done and the benefit accrued are equal, well and good; but if not, there will inevitably be ill-feeling between those who get a good income without doing much work and those who work harder but get no corresponding extra benefit. To live together and share in any human concern is hard enough to achieve at the best of times, and such a state of affairs makes it doubly hard. The same kind of trouble is evident when a number of people club together for the purpose of travel. How often have we not seen such partnerships break down over quarrels arising out of trivial and unimportant matters! In the household also we get most annoyed with those servants whom we employ to perform the ordinary routine tasks. (tr. Thomas Alan Sinclair, revised by Trevor J. Saunders)

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