A student once asked Confucius about government. Confucius said:

The requisites of government are that there be:

  1. Sufficiency of food
  2. Sufficiency of military equipment
  3. The confidence of the people in their ruler

The student then asked, what if we can’t have all three and we need to get rid of one, which one do we eliminate?

The military equipment!

Again the student asked, what if we must dispense with one of the two remaining, food or trust? The master answered,

Part with the food. From of old, death has been the lot humanity; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state.

Happiness and joy within relationships are based on mutual trust and respect far more than love and affection. According to Confucius, trust for government officials trumps (pun noted) food. To some people, love is the food of a relationship. It seems however, that love and affection, when conducted without trust and respect is like a diet soda to a diabetic. It makes you feel good at the time of consumption, but the results are worse than if you had never partaken of the drink.

Confucius further explained that the righteousness of the people is in direct correlation to the behavior of their leaders.

When a prince’s personal conduct is correct, his government is effective without the issuing of orders. If his personal conduct is not correct, he may issue orders, but they will not be followed.

We’ve seen in our own country, that the people often emulate the behavior of their leaders. If our elected leaders are virtuous, honest, dignified, respectful, and trustworthy, we are kinder and more honest with each other. The opposite is also true, when our leaders are immoral, dishonest, and lack civility, we take on the debasing habits that are modeled.

A final quote from the Master.

When a country is well governed, poverty and mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is poorly governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.

The Mandate of Heaven

Whereas Medieval Europeans legitimized their ruling authority by the divine right of kings, Confucian societies used a similar concept called the Mandate of Heaven. The Mandate of Heaven indicated divine approval of a king’s right to rule. However, it differed from the divine right of kings in that Heaven’s endorsement depends upon the virtuous conduct of the ruler. In other words, the Mandate of Heaven gave divine ruling authority to kings that lived a moral life, administered justice, and protected the welfare of his people.

Trustworthy? Honest? Virtuous?

Trustworthy? Honest? Virtuous?

Trustworthy? Honest? Virtuous?

Trustworthy? Honest? Virtuous?

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