Aristotle’s Views on Government, Dislike of Communism


When Aristotle moves down from heaven to earth his thought becomes more logical, more understandable, more concrete. One by one he takes up the various forms of government that have been tried out in the world—dictatorship, monarchy, oligarchy, (the rule of the few) and democracy. He analyzes each of them in turn, admits their strong features and points out their weaknesses. Of all the forms of government, dictatorship is the worst. For it subordinates the interests of all to the ambition of one. The most desirable form of government, on the other hand, is that which, “enables every man, whoever he is, to exercise his best abilities and to live his days most pleasantly.” Such a government, whatever its name, will always be a constitutional government. Any government without a constitution is a tyranny, whether it is the government of one man, of a few men, or of many men. The unrestrained will of a handful of aristocrats or of a horde of common men is just as great a tyranny as the unrestrained will of one man. The dictatorship of a class is no better than the dictatorship of an individual.

Dislike of Communism

In the first place, the government should not be—like Plato’s Republic—communistic. The common ownership of property, and especially of women and of children, would result in continual misunderstandings, quarrels and crimes. Communism would destroy personal responsibility. “What everybody owns, nobody cares for.” Common liability means individual negligence. “Everybody is inclined to evade a duty which he expects another to fulfil.” You can no more hope to communize human goods than you can hope to communize human character. Aristotle advocates the individual development of each man’s character and the private ownership of each man’s property.

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