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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Duty of Politicians to Qualify Themselves
By Socrates (469–399 B.C.)
From Xenophon’s ‘Memorabilia’: Translation of John Selby Watson

“IT is plain, Glaucon, that if you wish to be honored, you must benefit the State.” “Certainly,” replied Glaucon. “Then,”… said Socrates,… “inform us with what proceeding you will begin to benefit the State?… As, if you wished to aggrandize the family of a friend, you would endeavor to make it richer, tell me whether you will in like manner also endeavor to make the State richer?” “Assuredly,” said he.—“Would it then be richer if its revenues were increased?”—“That is at least probable,” said Glaucon. “Tell me then,” proceeded Socrates, “from what the revenues of the State arise, and what is their amount; for you have doubtless considered, in order that if any of them fall short, you may make up the deficiency, and that if any of them fail, you may procure fresh supplies.” “These matters, by Jupiter,” replied Glaucon, “I have not considered.” “Well then,” said Socrates,… “tell me at least the annual expenditure of the State; for you undoubtedly mean to retrench whatever is superfluous in it.” “Indeed,” replied Glaucon, “I have not yet had time to turn my attention to that subject.” “Then,” said Socrates, “we will put off making our State richer for the present; for how is it possible for him who is ignorant of its expenditure and its income to manage those matters?… Tell us the strength of the country by land and sea, and next that of our enemies.” “But, by Jupiter,” exclaimed Glaucon, “I should not be able to tell you on the moment, and at a word.” “Well then, if you have it written down,” said Socrates, “bring it; for I should be extremely glad to hear what it is.” “But to say the truth,” replied Glaucon, “I have not yet written it down.” “We will therefore put off considering about war for the present,” said Socrates…. “You propose a vast field for me,” observed Glaucon, “if it will be necessary for me to attend to such subjects.” “Nevertheless,” proceeded Socrates, “a man cannot order his house properly, unless he ascertains all that it requires, and takes care to supply it with everything necessary; but since the city consists of more than ten thousand houses, and it is difficult to provide for so many at once, how is it that you have not tried to aid one first of all?—say that of your uncle, for it stands in need of help.”… “But I would improve my uncle’s house,” said Glaucon, “if he would only be persuaded by me.” “Then,” resumed Socrates, “when you cannot persuade your uncle, do you expect to make all the Athenians, together with your uncle, yield to your arguments?… Do you not see how dangerous it is for a person to speak of, or undertake, what he does not understand?… If therefore you desire to gain esteem and reputation in your country, endeavor to succeed in gaining a knowledge of what you wish to do.”  1

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