4. Virtue-oriented Politics: Confucius and Aristotle
(12) Mulgan, Aristotle's Political Theory, p. 8 makes this point.
Aristotle regards Phaleas and Hippodamus as he regards Plato, from the point of view of an adversary: he is their critic, after the manner of his age, and tells us, not what he approves, but what he disapproves in their writings. Yet it is evident that some of their political ideas had great merit. Phaleas attempted to deal with the evils of property, which he thought could most easily be remedied in an old country by a clever arrangement of dowries: we should say, probably, by restricting the power of settlement or bequest. A difficulty which pressed upon ancient legislators more than ourselves owing to the stationary character of the arts of production was the increase of population; of this difficulty Aristotle is very sensible. When men begin to feel the struggle for existence they are apt to be discontented with the government under which they live. Yet mere equality of property, even if it could be maintained, would not always content them. For all men cannot be reduced to the same dead level, even if there were enough for all. The ambitious will still commit crimes on a great scale; the possession of a competence takes away only the temptation to petty larceny. Nor can it be denied that great inequalities of property by giving a stimulus to increased production may give a larger share of the goods of life to the poor than could be obtained by any system of distribution however just.
In Politics Aristotle lays down his ideal structure of the family.
In ancient times men did not easily analyse the forms of government under which they lived. In reflections of this kind Polybius, who lived a century and a half later, though not a genius of the highest order, has made an advance upon Aristotle. His sketch of the Roman Republic is fuller and clearer than any of the constitutions described in the Politics. Yet even he, truthful as he was in the main, cannot be acquitted of partiality. His predecessor Timaeus is a bête noire to him, whom he is always attacking, but, as we should be inclined to infer from his virulence, not always with justice.