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Aristotle on the Rule of Law

For Nature requires that the same right and the same rank should necessarily take place amongst all those who are equal by Nature; for as it would be hurtful to the body for those who are of different constitutions to observe the same regimen either of diet or clothing, so is it, with respect to the honours of the State, as hurtful that those who are equal in merit should be unequal in rank; for which reason it is as much a man’s duty to submit to command as to assume it and this also by rotation; for this is law, for order is law; and it is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens; upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians and the servants of the laws, for the supreme power must be placed somewhere; but they say that it is unjust that where all are equal one person should continually enjoy it. But it seems unlikely that man should be able to adjust that which the law cannot determine; it may be replied, that the law having laid down the best rules possible, leaves the adjustment and application of particulars to the discretion of the magistrate; besides it allows anything to be altered which experience proves may be better established. Moreover, he who would place the supreme power in mind, would place it in God and the laws; but he who entrusts man with it gives it to a wild beast, for such his appetites sometimes make him; for passion influences those who are in power, even the very best of men for which reason, mind is law, without desire. [Emphasis added.]


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