Analects of Confucius Book 1: Confucius on economics

Judging by his limited comments on economics, Confucius was a proponent of low government spending and limited state intervention.

In Chapter 5 of Book 1, he advises that a ruler should “be economical” in governing a medium-size country (literally, “a thousand-chariot state”). As a former official himself, he well understood the risk of taking away farmers from the fields to work on major state projects such as dams and irrigation works. As a result, he also cautions that the ruler should only “mobilize” farmers for labor “at the right times of the year” so as not to negatively impact agricultural production.

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