Views of Goodness in Government
Posted On April 1, 2017
Views of Goodness in Government?
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Views of Goodness in Government Throughout human civilization, there have been various methods of governing. There have been monarchies, democracies, communistic governments, and a number of others. However, there has been a longstanding political debate among philosophers throughout history about how one should rule a state. Of these philosophers, Plato, Lao-Tzu and Niccole Machiavelli each offer advice in their writings to the one in power specifying exactly how one should approach his authoritative position. The views of these three philosophers are similar in some ways while different in others. Nevertheless, the most similar views are those of Plato and Lao-Tzu. In Plato™s Allegory of the Cave, he expresses his idealistic view towards government. He believes that the government plays the leading role and must steer its subjects toward a world of intellect. Throughout the allegory, Plato expresses his strong conviction that only one who perceives the truth is fit to rule because just like the released prisoner, who is sent back into the cave, the one who rules has the duty of educating his people as to what is good and true. However, one can only do so, if he has a strong sense of what is right because he will be able to justify authority with wisdom and truth. He will not be blinded by matters such as, greed and ambition for power because it will be clear to him that they are trivial and are only important to those who live in the mere illusion of reality, not understanding the concept of what is good and true. Therefore, the underlying role of a governor is to be a guardian in society, who introduces spiritual good to his people. In comparison, Lao Tzu also takes an idealistic approach towards government. His main belief is that one cannot take total control; therefore, one should just allow everything to take its natural course. Lao-Tzu expresses this opinion by stating practice not doing and everything will fall into place (Lao-Tzu 22). The way to govern is by not forcing issues and by giving one™s subjects as much freedom as possible. The more ordinance and law, the more thieves and robbers there will be. He highlights this concept by saying that the more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have the less secure the people will be (Lao-Tzu 27). Therefore, a life without laws or force will result in harmony. In addition, Lao-Tzu expresses the view that instead of holding power and forcing rules, one should teach simplicity, patience, and compassion. If one has all three of these qualities, he/she will become a better person, as opposed to those who posses qualities of ambition, desire, and competitive striving. He is extremely opposed to materialism and states that individuals should retreat into wisdom and values of inner self. Lao-Tzu™s views are similar to those of Plato in the fact that they consider the individuals happiness as the basic unit of society and the ultimate goal of a ruler, which stems from spiritual fulfillment. Both views are not realistic, but rather idealistic, in which the good of the world lies in spiritual liberation. On the contrary, in his work, The Prince, Machiavelli takes a realistic approach, declaring that an ideal society only exists in achievable physical forms of government. He states that the ruler™s primary responsibility is maintaining and controlling his power to build a united nation because only a strong country can bring security and happiness to its people. Machiavelli gives explicit means to assist a ruler in manipulating his nation. Foremost, he highlights that laws are a fundamental principle for society and especially emphasizes a great deal on military force and structure. The leader should be familiar with his home and terrain and know the history of past rulers and states in order for him to be equip with military force. Chiefly, Machiavelli™s thought is that war is unavoidable. Unlike Lao-Tzu, who believes that the best leader is one who is loved, not feared, Machiavelli strongly suggests that it is better to be feared, and even cruelty is permitted to solidify one™s authority. Machiavelli™s view of government is more of a totalitarian one in which the government should be structured, controlled, and powerful. This strongly opposes the views of Lao-Tzu, who is completely against any form of control within government, suggesting that one should allow everything to run its own course. In comparison to the idealistic view, Machiavelli supposes that idealism is not possible to achieve in the world. Hence, he gives direct and effective means as a suggestion to any ruler by giving advice on how to conduct a good war, how to effectively fortify a city, and how to avoid conspiracy. Moreover, Machiavelli states that it is more important to be practical rather than moral, which opposes Plato™s view, stating that the government should rule in an ethical manner because that is what is good and true. Society has once taken Machiavellis advice of obtaining total control and acted accordingly, however, it resulted in corruption. One example is Hitler in his domination of Germany. However, his authority finally collapsed due to him not taking Machiavelli™s every bit of advice. Yes, he killed out all his enemies, which is one of Machiavelli™s strong suggestions. However, Hitler did not know his history, which was the cause of his ultimate downfall, when invading Russia. He should have known that invading Russia and being successful would be an unfeasible task after what happened with Napoleon, when he, as well, attempted to invade Russia. Therefore, the Machiavelli™s principle of total control is an unsuccessful one when one does not act upon every piece of advice given. In addition, Mynamar, a country located in the Southeast Asia, has also used military force to crack down on thousands of Buddhist monks protesting sharp rises in the price of food and fuel. Yet, this performance of Machiavelli™s suggestion of military force resulted in great impoverishment and tumult. In conclusion, today, we, in the United States, hold a democracy. The government does not follow any one of the philosophers™ views in particular; however, it does follow the goal of maintaining the happiness of its citizens. Just as Jefferson states, Men are endowed with rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Plato™s and Lao-Tzu™s goal of a government of liberation seems to be impossible and remains a utopian dream, while a totalitarian one has been proven by historical events, to be unsuccessful. Therefore, none of the philosophers succeeded in giving useful advice in which one could act upon to create a perfect government.-Y