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« Zhuangzi doesn't do debates | Main | Has Wen Jiabao Failed the Confucius Test? »

October 24, 2012


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George Washington wouldn't have cut it either.

It's amusing yet terrifying that so many Americans seem to hold these two conflicting sensibilities almost oblivious to the conflict.

At once they are quick to blame their politicians for the lies, malfeasance, and other moral failings that is their constant mark. They almost never blame themselves.

But they also have pretensions that they live in a democracy. But in a democracy, the responsibility of the government's actions and choices, either through direct vote or representatives, represent the peoples' values and choices.

So either they are a democracy and thus the choices of their government reflect their own and they have no one to blame but themselves or they are NOT representative of the peoples' choices and actions and thus they are not a democracy.

Now I happen to think that the US is not a democracy. Far from it in fact. But I also think that the American people are not wholly blameless for their goverment's actions and choices either. Being non democratic does not exculpate them from blame. That's because even in non democratic countries, the people are often partially blameworthy for supporting, endorsing or obeying their goverment even if the ultimate choices are not theirs but the choices of some small group of elites or a dictator or king.

If the US wants to be a democracy it must change its political system from top to bottom but far more importantly, the American people need to change their own values, attitudes and so forth. All the structural political change in the world won't do jack if the people don't even begin to accept responsibility for their blind allegiance to their government.

As the old saying goes, "If you fool me once, shame on you. If you fool me twice, shame on me." The American people can start by saying "But if you fool me a thousand times, may god damn my soul."

The American people are perpetual dupes. Millions will be duped by the rhetoric of politicians again like they always have been. How can you be a democracy when you can't accept responsibility for that fact?

Your posts are always thought-provoking (truly). You are, of course, aware that judging Gov. Romney either by Confucian or Mencian standards is a rhetorical exercise as such philosophies have no counterpart in American society. Han Fei-tzu would be more appropriate.

As Mitt Romney served his mission in France, perhaps the Little Corporal's comment serves well: In politics an absurdity is not a handicap.

Bryan, supposing that Confucian or Mencian philosophies have no counterpart in American society, why would that imply that judging Romney by such standards is a mere rhetorical exercise?

My response is quite late. Obviously, it is my own judgment that neither Confucius nor Mencius bring much enlightenment to Gov. Romney's actions/motivations as a public servant. I make this reckoning in the following ways. One, I cannot separate Romney from his country and his time. Two, American society has no civic counterpart to Confucian social thought because America has been for more than 100 years an urban entity- Jeffersonian agrarianism has a few muffled echoes in traditional Chinese society, but has long ceased to exist (and probably never really existed except in Jefferson's own mind). Third, Confucian philosophy exalts the scholar-bureaucrat; the U.S. does not. Fourth, traditional Chinese culture denigrated the merchant class; American society most adamantly does not. Fifth, I direct you to Kuo Mo-jo's essay "Marx Enters a Confucian Temple," wherein Kuo strains to assimilate Confucian and Marxian ways of thought via their respective utopias of the Great Harmony ("ta-t'ung") and a futurist vision of the proletariat-driven good life. Kuo's essay reminds me ever so much of this interesting post. Gov. Romney (and Karl Marx) does not move in an agrarian society composed of a highly stratified and non-mobile citizenry, a complex bureaucracy, and a hereditary autocracy. Romney and Marx exist as men in modern industrial societies (curiously, there are some parallels in the bourgeois grounding of their respective family backgrounds). Judging them by any other time-dependent criterion is a fascinating but ultimately less than useful line of analysis. I cited Han Fei-tzu and Legalism as more germane because this Warring States Era philosophical master emphasized command and control power, a natural law, and the view that human beings were motivated by the carrot and the stick (not the Golden Rule, except in the sense of "He who owns the gold, rules"). Sometimes Han Fei-tzu is equated in a round-about way with Niccolo Machiavelli; I can see a strong streak of expediency in Gov. Romney's actions in government and business. While Legalism was scorned in imperial China, its legacy was the eclipse of Confucian idealism in the actual practice of government. Threads of Legalism appear in American culture like Puritan proscription, Calvinist predestination, the Protestant Work Ethic, 19th century Social Darwinism, a mixed government/private sector economy, and a legal system with twin poles of codification (Legalism/civil law) and prescription (Confucian moral suasion/natural law). Perhaps similar concepts resonate in the history of Romney's only-in-America religion, the Latter Day Saints Church. America lauds the Self-Made Man rather than the Learned Gentleman ("chun-tzu") of ancient China- and the former label describes Gov. Romney's life trajectory far more appropriately than his actual status as an inheritor would suggest.

And my kind thanks to Prof. Crane for providing a space in which to exercise our thoughts.

Wat een geweldig artikel! Mag ik hier naar toe linken vanaf mijn eigen blogs?

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