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From Plutarch's Life of Solon

(paragraph break added):

[Anacharsis] laughed at [Solon] for imagining the dishonesty and covetousness of his countrymen could be restrained by written laws, which were like spiders' webs, and would catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but easily be broken by the mighty and rich.

To this Solon rejoined that men keep their promises when neither side can get anything by the breaking of them; and he would so fit his laws to the citizens, that all should understand it was more eligible to be just than to break the laws. But the event rather agreed with the conjecture of Anacharsis than Solon's hope.

Thanks to my colleague and former teacher Bill McGovern for the pointer.

Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
What's the point of this thread? Is this some sort of UCLA law school final exam question or something?
1.24.2008 3:24pm
John Kindley (mail) (www):
The point, as I read it, is similar to that of Albert Jay Nock's book Our Enemy, The State: namely, that the State has always originated and still consists, not in an effort to restrain the stronger/richer from exploiting the weaker/poorer, but in the project of enabling the stronger/richer to more effectively oppress and exploit the weaker/poorer. It's good to see a "respectable" libertarian making that point.
1.24.2008 3:40pm
jim47:
The ability to evade laws is a good like any other, and thus more readily available to those with the means to purchase greater amounts of goods. Very nice quote. I shall have to read more Plutarch.
1.24.2008 4:06pm
happylee:
A wonderful paean to libertarian social order and natural law jurisprudence...
1.24.2008 4:23pm
PersonFromPorlock:
A point neatly made is always worth noting. "But the event rather agreed..." indeed!
1.24.2008 4:25pm
Arkady:
Plutarch's following sentence is:


Anacharsis, being once at the Assembly, expressed his wonder at the fact that in Greece wise men spoke and fools decided.
1.24.2008 4:28pm
ras (mail):
"Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
-- John Adams
1.24.2008 4:52pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
jim47-

The ability to evade laws is a good like any other, and thus more readily available to those with the means to purchase greater amounts of goods. Very nice quote. I shall have to read more Plutarch.

Eh, sort of. But the so-called "elite" getting away with violating laws isn't just a capitalist phenomenon, it happens with the "elites" in communist countries as well. The only difference is that in communist countries the majority of people are poor, often miserable, and often starving, and the number of "the elite class" is smaller.
1.24.2008 4:54pm
Steve:
In college we generally referred to it as Plutarch's Lies.
1.24.2008 5:17pm
jim47:
American Psikhushka: sometimes the "means to purchase greater amounts of goods" isn't money, but position in the ruling party. Still, as I recall, the Soviet elites did actually end up with more money in particular.
1.24.2008 6:45pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
Amusing to note in this context that 'Anacharsis' is sometimes amusingly misspelled 'Anarcharsis.'
1.24.2008 7:15pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
(Did I mention how amusing that was?)
1.24.2008 7:15pm
Michael B (mail):
A simple enough truth simply and artfully told. Refreshing.
1.24.2008 10:11pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Wasn't there a post a while back on changes in IQ scores over time? One needn't be familiar with the number zero to be brilliant.
1.25.2008 8:40am
A. Person (mail):
Dear Eugene, Thank you very clarifying that the paragraph break wasn't Plutarch's own.
1.25.2008 8:52am
guest:
shouldn't "eligible" be translated here as "advantageous" or similar?
1.25.2008 9:47am
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):

I'm waiting for David Bernstein to get in high dudgeon and hammer Prof. Volokh for consorting with and posting Anacharsis' slanderous denigration of Greeks as too dishonest and covetous to abide by laws.

In fact, any candidate enjoying the good Professor's endorsement ought to immediately denounce him in a windy press release and completely disassociate from anything UCLA related.
1.25.2008 12:35pm
Michael B (mail):
guest, it's Dryden's translation
1.26.2008 3:36pm