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« Anti-Mohism in the New York Times | Main | Confucian Constitutionalism in defense of Freedom of Expression »

January 08, 2013


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The law may only treat the symptom, but it cannot cure the disease. Like Lao Zi said in Chapter 18 of Tao Te Ching: 六亲不和,有孝慈。If we can catch the problem and manage to maintain harmony between familiy members, there will be no use to emphasize filiality, not to mention legalizing it.

I disagree that traditional arrangements cannot be preserved or recreated through law, and I highly doubt that either Confucius or his students would support any such notion, but this is an argument which requires a fair bit of nuance.

First off, Mr Crane, you are absolutely right about this particular law. Forcing children to visit their parents will only foster further resentment, and will do nothing to alleviate the economic and cultural conditions which have caused this even to become a problem in the first place. You are also right that the economic and cultural conditions of modern China do (regrettably) make Confucian virtues difficult to near-impossible to practise.

But what is required, rather than a mere panglossian rejection of law as one instrument in creating social goods, is a more imaginative approach to just living and just statecraft. Laws and regulations privileging local capital investment and local consumption over globalist forms, small-scale entrepreneurship tailored to community needs over mass leveraging by multinational conglomerates, a basic social safety net and so forth, could create the conditions of security and rootedness which would be required for virtues like filiality to have any hope of being properly expressed.

Confucius and Mencius obviously felt that government and law were capable of being used to create social goods; else they would not have been appealing to the 君子 whose proper place was in advising rulers. Perhaps you can't 'legislate filiality' in the crude sense meant here, but taxation and regulation are the two tools at hand capable of combatting in any meaningful sense the amoral, virtue-destroying forces of the unfettered global market.

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