Links of Interest to Tax Resisters and Others

Some links that have bobbed up in my browser in recent days:

Having come to a decision on how to distribute political power in a society, are the uses of that power thereby legitimized? Aristotle takes on this question next.


Imagine that you have, like a good modern believer in popular sovereignty, distributed absolute political power as widely as possible, so that everyone (or maybe all adult citizens) have an equal voice. Then the poorest 51%, noting that the richest 49% own everything, vote to take it from them and redistribute it downwards. Chaos ensues, the economy tanks, the government loses control of the state, invaders loom at the gates, dark clouds blot out the sun, and so forth. But was it unjust?

Or perhaps, anticipating such a disaster, you have taken to heart the advice of the modern neoreactionaries and put your hope in a hereditary monarch with unquestioned authority over all matters political. But she too suffers a sudden bout of power-madness and assumes the assets of the state into the royal coffers. It was a shame to see the public treasury gambled away at Monte Carlo, but was it unjust?

Justice means more than obedience to constitutional forms, Aristotle asserts. What destroys the health of the society is not just. Very well.

“Rule by law” — that legendary “government of laws, not men” — Aristotle says, is no cure for this disease, as the law is just a way of assigning authority to people, who ultimately do the real work.

He also notes a possible problem with the formula he has been developing (that those with political office should be the virtuous ones, or those with a tendency to improve the virtue of their societies). The way states assign political office is among other things a way that societies honor individuals (even in my society, people are more likely to feel that Donald Trump has been honored by the office of the presidency, rather than that the office has been yet further tarnished by his election). If you go further and say that you will be selecting people for office based on their virtue, then those who are not picked will not only be disenfranchised, but also dishonored. (This will probably lead to discontent and undermine the stability of the state.)

Index to Aristotle’s Politics