Confucius on Governance

confuciusGuide them by edicts, keep them in line with punishments, and the common people will stay out of trouble but will have no sense of shame.

Guide them by virtue, keep them in line with the rites, and they will, besides having a sense of shame, reform themselves.

Confucius Analects Book II, Para. 3

Here is an ancient, but wise lesson on the importance of cultivating self in the development of a moral society. Enforcing rules through punishment and authoritarian rule works in the short-term, but individuals will have little sense of judgment and will likely break the rules when convenient.

Calls for tougher prison sentences arises out of a simplistic view of how human beings develop. When we don’t understand how people learn, we tend to take brute force methods. This is governance for the lazy leader.

On the other hand, if more time can be spent developing people’s character and what it takes to develop character, then people will learn how to the “right thing” in all sorts of situations. This is governance for the thoughtful leader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *