The role of the government in the current society has become so huge, and it is unlikely to come across any society without a form or system or government which oversees its affairs. Government have always been a critical component of the society and throughout centuries, the institution of government has undergone a massive evolution. It is however important to note the structure, duties and roles of the government vary from one society to another. In fact, there has been an unending debate about the perfect structure of government. Confucianism and Daoism are two Chines philosophies that present political views particularly regarding the approach to good government. In this paper, the two philosophies are going to be compared and in the end, it is going to argued that the Confucianism approach is preferable than the Daoism approach since it mainly advocates with a structured civilization which resonates with the current society which is hugely based on concerns of rule and work. I am going to start by first exploring the political philosophies of the Confucianism schools of thought. This will be accompanied by the explanation of some of the fundamental aspects of Confucianism views on good government that are applicable to the modern society. The Daoism school of thought will then be explored together with its fundamental elements. This will be followed by a discussion of why the Confucianism approach is preferable to the Daoism approach because it stresses various essential theme including dedication to family and one’s duty and responsibilities in life, social responsibility. An objection to Confucianism will be given, and this will be countered by a counter argument that shows why Confucianism is the best approach.
Confucius came up with most of his political philosophies after witnessing the collapse of the Zhou dynasty. Most of his teaching are documented in the analects. One important thing to note is that most of the Confucius teachings revolved around politics, family and modern humanity. Consequently there is a lot of interrelatedness in regards to the three teachings.
The premise of Confucius approach to good governance is the belief that if a ruler embodies perfect and moral virtues, his subordinates or subjects will naturally feel impelled to follow and obey him without any need for coercion (Chin, 2007).
Confucius stressed the huge need for people to develop responsibility and moral character especially rulers. He held the belief that a society could only be redeemed if the rulers emphasized sincerity in both public and personal conduct. When a society was ruled by moral people, then the people would be ruled and governed well (Confucius, & Legge, 2010). Confucius also held the belief that people ought to respect both the parents and rulers.
Confucianism advocates for leaders and ruler to critically think before making any decisions. One of his most famous quotes is “He who learns but does not think is lost” (Confucius, & Legge, 2010). This means that rulers are not supposed to act simply on impulse. Gratifying decisions can only be made when they comprehensive thinking has been done before the making of these decisions Thus means that in a good government, a leader focuses on a particular problem and comes with a list of possible choices that when implemented will benefit the entire society. The making of the decision is then followed by the taking of appropriate action. These are indeed the foundations of good governance and good leadership according to Confuniasm (Chin, 2007). Confucianism is totally the acting on impulse by government leaders and claims that doing so will only create more problems for the society.
Confucius also advocates the adoption of moral principles and the subsequent creation of a structured society. According to his teachings that a leader should help his subjects to acquire the same things that he also desires to acquire. He states that just as a leader desires standing and rank, he should also help other people to acquire standing and rank (Chin, 2007). Just a leader wants to turn his own merits or qualities to account, he should also do the same for his subjects. In simple terms, a leader should take care of his subjects (Chin, 2007). The subjects in return will abide and follow the enacted rules. This will then lead to the creation of a society that is well developed. Confucius also advises leaders not to do what they would not desire others to do to them.
In the Analects, Confucius states that “A country of a thousand war chariots cannot be administered unless the ruler attends strictly attends to business, punctually observes his promises, is economical in expenditure and shows affection to his subjects in general” (Confucius, & Legge, 2010, p.1600). These are the essentials of Confucius approach to good government. Confucianism also believes that if people are governed by regulations and if chastisements are used to keep order among them, the people will flee from the leader and will lose all form of self-respect. However, if they are governed by mental force and order is kept by ritual, the people will maintain their self-respect and will approach the leader as they please. The leader must use good virtues in ruling and by respecting the subjects, they will accord the same respect to the ruler in return. Confucius makes an analogy of this with the galaxy where he states “He who exercises government by means of virtue may be compared to the north polar star which keeps it place and all the stars turn towards it” (Confucius, & Legge, 2010, p.1601)
The teachings of Daoism are mainly associated with legendary Chinese scholar Lao Tzu. His views on government, as well as those on human relationships, are quite different from those of Confucius. Unlike Confucius, which exemplifies a larger role for the leader in developing a structured civilization, Daoism emphasizes on a reduced government role and increased freedom for people (Feldt, 2010).
According to Daoism, the ruler’s or a leader’s main duty is to enforce a minimum government and at the same time protect his subjects from experiencing strong passions and material wants. In fact, this is a direct contrast to Confucius ideals on government which some perceived as being symptoms of excessive government system that disregarded effortless action (Feldt, 2010).
Daoism believes that everything in the world happens quite naturally, and there is a universal “flow of life’ that is eternal. Consequently the behavior of humans corresponds to its nature, and the way to improve virtues and morality in people is to do nothing so that nothing will be enforced (Cleary et al. 1993). Daoism advocates for people and rulers to reach beyond the traditional society sector. Therefore, a subject or follower will in no way be attached to the politics and powers of the ordinary standards of the society.
According to Daoism, humans are essentially free spirits that should not be constrained by common rule and standards set by government (Cleary et al. 1993). Even though the government has a mandate to take care of its people, should let the people live in harmonious bliss where there they are not tied to pre-established standards of living or common expectations.
The society should also do away with materialistic possessions. This is because these are the ones that build up unrealistic expectations within humans and cause them great distress. Essentially, Daoism wants people just to sit back, relax and let things happen naturally without the government to regulate anything (Cleary et al. 1993).
On analyzing the two schools of thought, it appears that the Confucianism approach is the preferable one since it has more applicability to the modern government. The Taoist approach might appear appealing but in real sense, it is not realistic let alone applicable. Confucianism stresses various essential theme including dedication to family and one’s duty and responsibilities in life, social responsibility. In addition, Confucianism almost displays Christian like virtues and aspects of benevolence and helping others. The Confucianism offers the best structural foundation for the establishment of a strong political authority that can adequately run the society affair.
On the other hand, some would object to this argument claiming that Confucianism is almost a depiction of excessive and bureaucratic government that reduces people to being “followers” of political leaders.
However, Daoism can be viewed as a form of a counterbalance to the Confucius doctrine. Leaders may sometimes become too obsessed with power, and they may forget to look out for people and this is where it becomes important to remember that people also possess rights.
Confucianism is the best approach because very society needs laws that every person is subject to. A society without strong rules and laws governing it is likely to disintegrate into chaos. Confucius advocates for the setting up of rules that are based on moral principles and with such rules in place, the society will without a doubt succeed.
In conclusion, it can be seen that there are huge differences between the political philosophies of Confucianism and Daoism. It has been shown that while Confucianism mainly advocates for leaders to base their ideals on moral principles and good virtues, Daoism advocates for minimum government involvement in people affairs. It has also been shown that the Taoist approach leaves a lot to be desired for especially in regard to its belief in the natural flow of things and that action should not be taken on aspects such as improving morality. It has also been shown that Taoist approach can be used as a counterbalance to the Confucianism approach occasionally. It has been shown the Confucianism approach would be the preferable and the establishment of a government based on this school thought will lead to the success of the society.
Chin, A. (2007). The authentic Confucius: A life of thought and politics. New York: Scribner.
Cleary, T. F., Laozi, & Zhuangzi (1993). The essential Tao: An initiation into the heart of Daoism through the authentic Tao te ching and the inner teachings of Chuang-Tzu. San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco.
Confucius, & Legge, J. (2010). The analects of Confucius. Auckland, N.Z.: Floating Press.
Feldt, A. (2010). Governing Through the Dao: A Non-Anarchistic Interpretation of the Laozi. Dao-a Journal of Comparative Philosophy, 9(3), 323-337.