Friday, September 5, 2008

America's Confucius

Almost a year ago, I felt compelled to write Ron Paul Tzu, my first article for LewRockwell.com, in which I called the man "both a Confucian gentleman and a Taoist sage." Today, having finished A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship, I am convinced I was right. From the book's final chapter, here is a statement that summarizes not only his book but everything Congressman Ron Paul stands for:
    What we need is more confidence in ourselves, and a stronger belief in our traditions, so that we never are tempted to initiate force to make others live as we do. If we truly have an economic and political message worth emulating, our only responsibility is to set a standard that others will want to follow.
On this blog's sidebar, you may have read that "Confucianism, condemned as 'Reactionary' during the so-called Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, is, in many ways, an ancient Eastern archetype of the highest ideals of both Paleoconservatism and Paleolibertarianism, to employ contemporary American political parlance, in that the Sage posits reverence of tradition and antiquity on the one hand and governance by moral example rather than force on the other."

The Good Doctor also calls for "reverence of tradition and antiquity" and "governance by moral example rather than force." His ideas have been decried as "reactionary" by our own cultural revolutionaries, whether they be neocon or left-liberal. The Sage came early in Chinese history, during a time of chaos, just as the Good Doctor has come early in ours and also during a time of chaos. Both great men looked to the past for guidance for the future. Allow me to quote myself:
    Dr. Paul's advocacy of constitutional principles and the thought of the founders would gain approval from Confucius, who said "I transmit but do not innovate; I am truthful in what I say and devoted to antiquity (The Analects, VII, 1)." The Paul Administration will serve to "transmit" the ideas of our founders and their documents, which are our classics. There will be no officials who "innovate" upon them with creative interpretations or dismiss them as "quaint." Indeed, Dr. Paul's strict adherence to the letter of the Constitution is reminiscent of the Confucian devotion to the "Rectification of Names," i.e. the restoration of original interpretations of words and the rejection of arbitrariness. Said China's first teacher, "When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty (ibid. XIII, 3)."

    The Confucian statement of the Golden rule-"What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others (ibid. VX, 24)"-is remarkably similar to the "no harm" principle that guides Dr. Paul's libertarian philosophy. While the Confucian version may be less active than the Christian version, it is perhaps more suitable to governance, in that it allows individuals and voluntary associations more leeway and incentive to carry out mutual aid and charity work.

    Confucius would applaud Dr. Paul's opposition to rule by a unitary executive with unchecked powers. Confucius rejected rule by force, going as far to say, "Barbarian tribes with their rulers are inferior to Chinese states without them (ibid. III, 5)." Instead, he proposed leadership by example, which is what the Paul Administration will offer America, at home and abroad. Confucius offered this admonition which could have been levelled at the current occupant of the Oval Office: "Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good, and the people will be good (ibid. XII, 19)." Indeed, Confucius, like Dr. Paul, was an arch-enemy of tyranny: "An oppressive government is fiercer and more feared than a tiger (The Record of Rites II, 2)."
Confucius' influence was limited in his lifetime, but would extend over 2,500 years of Chinese history; let us pray that Dr. Ron Paul's wisdom guides our next 2,500 years.

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