Confucius on State Violence

When should a government use force or kill its own citizens?

State Violence

When is it permissible for a government to use violence against its own people, or even kill them? According to Confucius, Government should not use force of violence to get its subjects to comply. It should be like the wind blowing the grass, causing them to bend in the desired direction without breaking them.

Confucius remonstrated with a prince: #39;sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your desires be shown to be for what is good, and the people will be good. The relation between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass; the grass must bend when the wind blows across it.'" (Analects, bk. xii., c. xix.)

The key to a compliant population was good government and everyone knowing their roles. Confucisus says: "When right principles prevail in the empire, there will be no controversies among the common people." (Analects, bk. xvi., c. ii., v. 3.) and "When the people keep their respective places, there will be no poverty; when harmony prevails, there will be no scarcity of people; when there is repose, there will be no rebellions." (Analects, bk. xvi., c. L, v. 10.)

Once again, Confucius expounds the requirement of the ruler to set a good example. Doing so is in his own best interest, because it will cause the people to love and respect him.