According to Analects, what is the basis of good government? According to Analects, good government should follow some basic principles to ensure its success and rulers should have certain qualities in order to win the love, loyalty and support of their subjects. Hence the true meaning of good government should be concerned with establishing a strong rapport between those who rule and those who are being ruled to improve society.
The improvement of society cannot happen if the ruler does not gain the fidelity of his subjects while still securing the human rights of those subjects. In order for a ruler to gain fidelity of his subjects he must rule ‘by means of his virtue’ (page 1, pg 1). The virtuous qualities of the ruler are a prerequisite for the success and stability of his government. One of the virtuous qualities of a ruler is “propriety”. Propriety means good behavior. This means that the ruler must set an example for his subjects.
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He must have “no depraved thoughts” (page 1) and his conduct must serve as a model for the people to follow. The aim of this is not only to teach the people virtuous behavior but also to please the common people, which is an important requirement of good government. If common people are pleased then the ruler will rule in peace and ensure the continuity and welfare of his state because these people will not revolt against him. What’s more they will defend him against potential enemies.
They will “become good” themselves and will not attempt any wrongdoing. The “sense of shame” they have and which they learned from the ruler’s good conduct will prevent them from any misdeeds. For this reason conformity of people should be sought by means of virtue and not by punishments, because if conformity is imposed by force and not by good behavior, people may conform only “to avoid the punishment” but they will not love their ruler or be loyal to him.
Yet, this does not mean that good government should deny the role of law and punishment. On the contrary, law and punishment should be used to “advance the upright and set aside the crooked” (page 2). By using this virtuous the ruler can secure the submission of the people. But submission will not be the result of fear of punishment, but will stem from the ‘sense of shame’ one feels when he does something wrong. There will be a fatherly relationship uniting the ruler and the ruled in what Confucius calls filial piety.
Filial piety means that the father educates his children, teaches them how to be virtuous and protects them from any mishaps. In return the children revere their parents by “not being disobedient”, by taking the toil of troublesome affairs of their parents (pages 2, 3), and by sacrificing everything for their parents. Filial piety becomes then the basis of good government and the good acting of the ruler and his virtuous conduct will strengthen the parental relationship between the ruler and the common people he rules.