Trust in government

子貢問「政」。子曰:「足食,足兵,民信之矣。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,於斯三者何先?」曰:「去兵。」子貢曰:「必不得已而去,於斯二者何先?」曰:「去食。自古皆有死,民無信不立。」
Zigong asked about governance. Confucius said: “Enough food, enough weapons, and the trust of the people.” Zigong said: “If you had to go without one of these three, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Weapons.” Zigong asked: “If you had to go without one of the remaining two, which one would you give up?” Confucius replied: “Food; from ancient times, death has been the fate of all men. But without the trust of the people, the government cannot stand.”

Trust in government: now there’s an interesting concept.

This passage strikes at the very heart of Confucius’s political philosophy. Only an enlightened ruler who works in the interests of the people will gain their trust and hence ensure the longevity of his government. If he fails to do this, then the government will collapse and anarchy will ensue.

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