Perspectives: The principles of good government haven’t changed

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION – The distinction between knowledge and wisdom is largely lost on the voting public these days.

Knowledge, being specific to a particular time and place can become obsolete. There’s a reason we don’t still bleed people to cure various aliments.

Wisdom, on the other hand, stands the test of time. This makes it universal.

For instance, the principles of good governance really haven’t changed over the past couple of thousand years.

This is because human nature is remarkably constant and the same temptations that accompanied power 2,000 years ago are still very much in evidence today.

Politics is the one area of our lives where Bronze Age thinking still prevails over a majority of minds.

It’s hard to get excited over individuals on a stage trying to convince us that they’ll do the best job of stealing from, distributing to, oppressing and killing or protecting the right groups.

So where are we to find wisdom regarding leaders?

Great books are always a good place to begin. If a particular text offers sound advice that has endured for hundreds of years, it’s not likely to be a mere social fad.

For instance, in the book “Secret Tactics: Lessons From the Great Masters of Martial Arts” edited by Kazumi Tabata, are some wonderful gems on the qualities of good leaders from Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong.

Consider how few candidates, at any level, possess the qualities the emperor lists.

Emperor Taizong describes a good leader as a man of few words, in charge of his emotions, a good negotiator, and modest toward the people.

A good leader will also have respect for those with wisdom and virtue; will care for the people as if they were his own children; promote the development of industry and establish friendly relations with people abroad.

The emperor also counsels that good leaders are careful of what they say in public, should be educated, since uneducated people struggle to create effective and appropriate policies and never give special treatment to family or particular interest groups.

Emperor Taizong lists four things a leader must never do. He must not rule with falsehoods and lies; he must place his public responsibilities above his personal desires; he must never lack self-restraint. Most importantly, he must never be materialistic, extravagant and conceited.

The emperor also cautioned against a ruler preaching religion or engaging in reckless wars in which troops are irresponsibly sent into combat for no good reason.

Can anyone make the case that these qualities are obsolete or undesirable in our time?

How much humility and reason do we find in the candidates currently dominating our news cycle?

If these criteria represent values that no longer matter, then why concern ourselves with which narcissist or sociopath ultimately attains public office?

Do we want leaders or simply figureheads who stay bought by the big money interests that finance them?

Part of our low expectations for our candidates stems from a misplaced belief that putting the right person into the right office will solve any number of critical issues facing us today.

We have forgotten what the purpose and scope of proper government was supposed to be in the first place. This philosophical amnesia is costing us dearly in terms of our personal liberties and our prosperity.

Jeffery Tucker has a point worth considering when he notes:

It should not be the case that anyone should have to worry so much about the character of the person we elect. A good system of government is one that is protected against control by wicked people. It should even be protected against good people who want to use state power to realize their ideals. Government should be a structure that is impervious to the personal ambitions of its temporary managers.

Talk is cheap for politicians. What is really needed are statesmen.

Statesmen are independent thinkers not followers. They have broad knowledge of the world as it actually is. They are not tools in the hands of special interests because they have stronger attachment to principle than they do to popularity.

If you can’t think of any statesmen, then it may be your duty to become one.

The surest place to find wisdom is in the words of good, wise and honest men who preceded us. There is no substitute.

If we cannot accept the fact that American society has strayed from the foundational principles and wisdom upon which its political, financial and economic freedoms were based, the next election will solve nothing.

At best, we’ll simply elect whichever power-seeker will have the privilege of presiding over the collapse of a once-great nation.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • BIG GUY February 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Words of wisdom: thank you. I do take exception to one paragraph that should have been deleted, the one about “individuals on a stage trying to convince us that they’ll do the best job of stealing from, distributing to, oppressing and killing or protecting the right groups.” Slamming presidential hopefuls as thieves and killers unnecessarily distracts from otherwise thoughtful insights.

  • anybody home February 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    The old Emperor was right on the money: “Emperor Taizong lists four things a leader must never do. He must not rule with falsehoods and lies; he must place his public responsibilities above his personal desires; he must never lack self-restraint. Most importantly, he must never be materialistic, extravagant and conceited.”

    In which case, Americans ought to be grateful we had Barack Obama for these past years and had better run as fast as they can from Donald Trump.

    • ladybugavenger March 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      That’s funny AH. We could apply these 4 things to Hillary as well.

    • .... March 2, 2016 at 8:46 am

      LOL ! Yeah right like Obama has done a good job eh !

  • Roy J March 2, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Well, if the principles haven’t changed, then the US federal government is clearly doing a smashing job in their intense devotion to Taizong’s example. This from the crusty old Emperor’s Wikipedia page: “For more than a century after his death, China enjoyed prosperity and peace brought about by the solidification of imperial protection over the Chinese regions. In territorial extent, it covered most of the territories previously held by the Han dynasty, including parts of modern Vietnam, Xinjiang, and Central Asian regions as far as eastern Kazakhstan. This era of consolidation and conquest laid the foundation for Xuanzong’s reign, which is considered to be the height of the Tang dynasty.”
    I would’ve said that wherever the final cause of government has changed, there too have the principles of ‘good’ government, but since Taizong is a point in favor the feds, fine by me…XD

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