Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Was Confucius a libertarian?

A friend told me, "Confucius insists that moral rulers need no coercive measures in order to rule, and that rulers who do coerce are not worthy of their authoritative position."
I  enthusiastically agree with this principle. I wonder how many  moral rulers we can discover in history, defined in this way? I wonder, did Confucius provide any examples?
Confucius [...] argues that the best government is one that rules through "rites" (lǐ) and people's natural morality, rather than by using bribery and coercion. He explained that this is one of the most important analects: "If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of the shame, and moreover will become good." (Translated by James Legge) in the Great Learning (大學). This "sense of shame" is an internalisation of duty, where the punishment precedes the evil action, instead of following it in the form of laws as in Legalism.
 Confucius believed that the motivation behind moral actions must be moral. If a person acts morally because he/she is coerced by fear then the person is not benevolent. Thus, laws do not develop moral character.

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