JimWes Thinks

May 25, 2015

CONFUCIUS: Public Sector Ethics

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 2:55 pm

Confucius was the first and perhaps the greatest philosopher on the importance of ethics in the public sector and the importance of projecting an image of integrity and honesty by the highest officials.

Unlike many of the other philosophers one, Confucius, had a very special interest in ethics in the public sector. He often spoke of the “governor” or “ruler” posts that today we call the “chief executive or CEO.” His teachings survived over more than two millennia. Great interest in his teachings is currently resurging in China, after having been nearly abandoned under the Mao regime. He often directed questions to his disciples, but sometimes also gave his own response.

“What is the essence of good governance? Not resolving issues in haste and not seeking advantage. “

 “If one cannot govern himself, how will he know how to govern others?”

 “If proper in their own conduct, what difficulty would they have in governing? But if not able to be proper in their own conduct, how can they demand such conduct from others?”

“To govern is to correct. If you set an example be being correct, who would dare to remain incorrect?”

The most interesting thing about the teachings of the great philosopher is that his main criterion regarding public officials 25 centuries ago is still important and widely accepted up to now. He believed in the power of benevolence, arguing that rule by example rather than by fear would inspire people to follow an equally virtuous life. The same principle, in his opinion, should govern personal relationships.

 “If guided by virtue and regulated by the rules, the common people will have a sense of shame and abide by what is required of them.”

He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place when all the stars are rotating about it.

Confucius argued that the virtuous man is not just someone who is at the top of the social hierarchy, but one who understands his place in this hierarchy and embraces it fully. To define the different means of virtuous actions one must return to traditional Chinese values: loyalty; filial piety; ritual propriety; and reciprocity. ​​Confucius called the person who carefully observes these values a “gentleman,” “superior man” or “nobleman” meaning a man of virtue, education and good manners.

 “A superior man may be described as one who first puts his ideas into practice, and then preaches to others what he already does.”

 “The nobleman retains throughout his life the ingenuity and innocence of childhood.”

 “If the ruler is just, no one will be unjust; if the ruler is kind, no one will be cruel.”

 “When the ruler himself acts rightly, he will exercise influence over the people without giving orders, and when the ruler himself does not act rightly, all his orders will be useless.”

 Confucius emphasized trust – trusting your boss, your employee, your neighbor, your friend in the hope that this confidence will be returned. He believed that refraining from offending and building a decent reputation would encourage good teamwork, business success, and community spirit.

 Over the past 2500 years China has implemented the teachings of Confucius and each time it has worked over long periods. The times when it failed were when a corrupt emperor stepped in and used the laws to oppress the people.

 In summary, Confucius was an eternal optimist. He believed in people. He believed that if the ruler was a noble man, the people will not only follow him, but will imitate him. Confucius pointed to the “north” in the compass of governance and many of his teachings are still very applicable to governments, their officers and their employees.

(For more on this subject see: CHINESE ETHICS: http://flip.it/1OsLS )


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