Saturday, July 9, 2016

464 Confucianism and the Origin of American Democratic System

It is widely recognized that throughout Chinese history, Confucianism was employed in the service of authoritarian system. Democracy was not a part of the Confucian tradition. However, some scholars made their efforts to argue that Confucian tradition was consistent with democracy. They have proved their opinion by arguing that humaneness  (仁)or benevolence, the core of Confucian thought, was used as a Confucian standard to judge authoritarian politics. If a ruler failed in his responsibilities to be a good ruler, he should be removed, and a good ruler installed.

However, this is not Dr. Dave Wang's argument on relationship between American Democracy and Confucianism. Confucianism indeed made contribution to the origin of American democratic system. In the founders eyes, Confucian moral philosophy was valuable for their efforts to enhance the virtue of the leaders. For the founders, to keep leaders with good virtue was the key to success of a democratic system. Therefore, Confucianism was involved the founding the the democratic institution in the founding era of the United States.

"If we want to grow in virtue, and experience a healthier, more productive political environment, each of us must demand more virtue." (Arthur C. Brooks, The Trick to Being More Virtuous, The New York Times, November 28, 2014.) This was exactly the situation that the founders were facing when they called upon Confucius moral principles to be employed to advance American virtues.
The picture shows Professor Krill Thompson's article, Traditional Chinese Concepts and 17th-18th Century Enlightenment Ideals: Reflections on the IHS Conference on Freedom, Equality, Democracy, and the Rise of Market Economy, October 2015

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