by Joshua Snyder by Joshua Snyder
Dr. Ron Paul of Texas is our American sage. He merits the honorific tzu, meaning “master,” given to the great thinkers of Chinese antiquity: K’ung Fu Tzu (Confucius), Meng Tzu (Mencius), Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Sun Tzu and others. Ron Paul Tzu is both a Confucian gentleman and a Taoist sage.
Dr. Paul’s advocacy of constitutional principles and the thought of the founders would gain approval from Confucius, who said “I transmit but do not innovate; I am truthful in what I say and devoted to antiquity (The Analects, VII, 1).” The Paul Administration will serve to “transmit” the ideas of our founders and their documents, which are our classics. There will be no officials who “innovate” upon them with creative interpretations or dismiss them as “quaint.” Indeed, Dr. Paul’s strict adherence to the letter of the Constitution is reminiscent of the Confucian devotion to the “Rectification of Names,” i.e. the restoration of original interpretations of words and the rejection of arbitrariness. Said China’s first teacher, “When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty (ibid. XIII, 3).”
The Confucian statement of the Golden rule-”What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others (ibid. VX, 24)”-is remarkably similar to the “no harm” principle that guides Dr. Paul’s libertarian philosophy. While the Confucian version may be less active than the Christian version, it is perhaps more suitable to governance, in that it allows individuals and voluntary associations more leeway and incentive to carry out mutual aid and charity work.
Confucius would applaud Dr. Paul’s opposition to rule by a unitary executive with unchecked powers. Confucius rejected rule by force, going as far to say, “Barbarian tribes with their rulers are inferior to Chinese states without them (ibid. III, 5).” Instead, he proposed leadership by example, which is what the Paul Administration will offer America, at home and abroad. Confucius offered this admonition which could have been levelled at the current occupant of the Oval Office: “Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good, and the people will be good (ibid. XII, 19).” Indeed, Confucius, like Dr. Paul, was an arch-enemy of tyranny: “An oppressive government is fiercer and more feared than a tiger (The Record of Rites II, 2).”
If Dr. Paul is the consummate Confucian gentleman, he is even more of a Taoist sage. Here, Lao Tzu presages Dr. Paul’s social and economic platform of individual liberty:
- The more prohibitions there are, the more ritual avoidances, the poorer the people will be… The more laws are promulgated, the more thieves and bandits there will be… So long as I ‘do nothing’ the people will of themselves be transformed. So long as I love quietude, the people will of themselves go straight. So long as I act only by inactivity the people will of themselves become prosperous. (The Classic of the Way and Virtue II, 57).
The essence of Dr. Paul’s economic ideas are that “by [governmental] inactivity the people will of themselves become prosperous.” When Thomas Jefferson famously reminded us that “the government is best which governs least,” he was expressing a Taoist sentiment.
This “inactivity” or “do-nothingness” is the Taoist ideal of wu-wei, or non-action. What is the non-interventionism Dr. Paul proposes for America, and which he reminds us was our original foreign policy, if not wu-wei writ large? In warning us of “foreign entanglements” and “entangling alliances,” Washington and Jefferson showed themselves to be Taoist sages as well. Like the Chinese, Dr. Paul knows that it is wise to listen to one’s ancestors.
Dr. Paul is a man of peace, but his thoughts echo those of that greatest theorist of war, Sun Tzu, who, not a chickenhawk, warned that unnecessary wars should never be waged. Certainly, a Congressmen Sun Tzu would have voted with Dr. Paul against invading a country that neither attacked us nor had the means to do so: “Unless endangered do not engage in warfare. The ruler cannot mobilize the army out of personal anger (The Art of War XII, 11).” Dr. Paul’s call to bring the troops home immediately from what has been foolishly but accurately advertised as “The Long War” would have been seconded by Sun Tzu, who observed, contra Randolph “War is the Health of the State” Bourne, “There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare (ibid. II, 4).”
Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Sun Tzu all lived and taught in pre-imperial China. In 221 B.C., Ch’in Shih-huang united the various Chinese states into an empire and set about to burn the Confucian classics and bury their scholars alive. The Legalism of Han Fei Tzu, which centered on the totalitarian power of the ruler, replaced the humanistic teachings of Confucianism and Taoism.
The situation is not unlike our own today. The only difference between our Republic’s transformation to Empire and that of ancient China is that ours has been more subtle. (Ours is the “soft tyranny” spoken of by Alexis de Tocqueville.) Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution have not been burned (yet), nor have their defenders been buried alive (yet), but our founding documents and those who defend them have been ignored, scorned, circumvented, and trampled upon.
Confucianism survived the suppression and became the governing philosophy of the Han and all subsequent dynasties until 1911. Our constitutional republic, too, will survive and be restored. And there is one man calling upon our country to return to its founding principles, Ron Paul Tzu.
Mencius, Confucius’ great heir, carried on and elaborated his master’s theory of benevolent government, calling for a sage-king to lead, not rule, the people. Who among the current crop of Republicrat candidates, or even those of the last generation, has even an ounce of sagacity, save for Dr. Ron Paul, in whom it abounds. Ron Paul Tzu, the Confucian gentleman and Taoist sage, stands alone offering “Hope for America” and the restoration of our Republic.
An American Catholic son-in-law of Korea, Joshua Snyder [send him mail] lives with his wife and two children in Pohang, where he serves as an assistant visting professor of English at a science and technology university. He blogs at The Western Confucian.