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ent. For, first, the opinion of society governs the style of
living, in great measure; and that opinion will either change
or abolish the sumptuary laws. Secondly, the producers and
traders see no evil in the indulgences of people of wealth.
They themselves have the same tendency to extravagance,
because they do not anticipate evil. All persons, yalmost,
except the political economist, seem to think that enlarged
consumption must of course be a blessing. Thirdly, the per-
sons who would feel such laws most are best able to ward off
the effects from themselves. Acting thus unequally on dif-
ferent classes and having no visible results, they are abrogated
or remain a dead letter. A well-devised tax on incomes,
questionable as such a tax may be, would produce more effect
in restraining expenses than all the sumptuary laws that have
ever been made or projected.
Montesquieu has some remarks on sumptuary laws (b. vii.,
ch. 1-5) which show his opinion in regard to their use under
different forms of polity; on the whole, he seems to find no
fault in them where they can be enforced. In a republic, he
remarks, luxury is the ruin of the state, and is rendered pos-
sible by the increasing inequalities of condition. " In order
to have an equal distribution of riches, the law ought to give
each man only just what is necessary for nature " (ch. i). But
this plainly would be a fight against nature, which always has
been and always will be the author of inequalities, "In an
aristocracy which is ill constituted, the wealthy noble is not
allowed to spend, and the people have nothing to spend.
Greece was wiser. The rich spent their money in ways which
gratified the people. Wealth, therefore, was as burdensome
as poverty." But we now charge the liturgies and other
public services of Athens to the tyranny of the lower people.
Injustice, then, must be used to deplete the wealthy. " In a
monarchy there is an absolute necessity for luxury. If the
rich did not spend largely, the people would starve. For the
preservation of a monarchy, riches ought to grow in amount
as the ranks of society rise upward. Sumptuary laws did not
suit a monarchy at Rome, and luxury is absolutely necessary