The Three Essentials of Good Government

Food, Weapons and Confidence

The 3 Essential Elements of Good Government

According to Confucius, there are three essentials of good effective government: sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the people's confidence in their ruler. If you could not have all three, military equipment and food were less important than confidence in the ruler. As recorded in the Analects: "Tsze-kung again asked, 'If it cannot be helped and one of the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should be forgone?' The Master answered, 'Part with the food. From of old death has been the lot of all men; but if the people have not confidence in their rulers, there is no stability for the state.'" (Analects, bk. xii., c. vii.)

For if the people had confidence in their ruler, they would follow him in spite of difficulties: "The superior man, having obtained their confidence, may impose tasks upon the people. If he have not gained their confidence, they will deem his acts oppressive." (Bk. xix., c. x.)

It is interesting that despite living during the unsettled times of the Warring States period, Confucius did not rank military armaments as one of the main essentials of a government. For Confucius, the security of a country lay in its people and their willingness to stand by theie leader. If they had confidence in their leader, the people were the state's greatest weapon. If they did not believe in their leaders, they would rebel or follow his orders only grudgingly.