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Tacitus’ syllogism

“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”
—Tacitus

In Plato’s Revenge, William Ophuls spells out what’s implied by this syllogism:

* In a healthy state, laws are few, simple, and general because the people are moral, law-abiding, and public spirited, which makes them easy to govern.

* In a sick state, the laws are many, complex, and minute because the people are amoral, conniving, and self-seeking, which makes them hard to govern.

* Ergo, the more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state, and vice versa.

Ophuls writes, “by this standard, the United States is hopelessly corrupt.” Later, he continues “The legal and bureaucratic machinery of government has grown larger and more oppressive in a mostly vain attempt to make up for social decline. We are being driven toward an administrative despotism that extinguishes both liberty and privacy because it is the most expedient way to deal with the moral breakdown caused by our basic political principles.”

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