Daily Archives: November 7, 2020

eucratic

Which would suggest that eucratic means ‘pleasant power’ or something like that. And, well, it sort of does. Canadians tend to be familiar with the phrase good government, as in “peace, order, and good government,” which is generally taken as the Canadian answer to the American “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” though of course each is intended to imply the other: Canadians believe that with peace, order, and good government, you can have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, whereas Americans are more likely to believe that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are the appropriate basis for acceptable peace, order, and good government. But the point here today is that both countries (among many others) can have good government, which is more on the line of what eucratic implies (allowing that it’s an adjective, not a noun).

But what is that, really? Let me quote from the single English source for this word, the translation (unsigned) of Fragments of Politics and History, vol. 1, by Louis-Sébastien Mercier: 

Is this word Greek to you? That’s OK; it’s Greek to everyone. If it looks a bit Socratic, it is: Socrates’s name, Σωκράτης, means ‘safe power’, and the cratic in eucratic is the same cratic as in Socratic and democratic and all the other cratic words, from κράτος, meaning ‘power’. But the eu is from εὐ- meaning ‘good’ or ‘pleasant’, as in euphoria(‘pleasant bearing’), eulogy (‘pleasant words’), euthanasia (‘pleasant death’), and even euphemism (‘pleasant talk’).

It is a maxim among physicians, “that no body is perfectly sound.” The same may be said of every government: the least imperfect live in a middle existence, in a state truly eucratic, that is, where good and ill are intermingled, but where the good preponderates.

Here’s from the 1792 French original, Fragmens de politique et d’histoire, vol. 1:

Les médecins disent, nemo perfectè sanus, personne n’est parfaitement sain. On en peut dire autant de tout gouvernement : les moins imparfaits vivent dans un moyen être, dans un état véritablement eucratique, c’est-à-dire, mêlé de bien et de mal, et où le bien l’emporte sur le mal.

So you can see that English gets the word from French. However, in French as in English, the word (at least in this sense) is traceable to a single source: the one you’ve just read. Which, of course, assembled it from the Greek kit.

But still. It’s a good word, as good as one could ask for, for good government, a good state of a state – as good as one could ask for.