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THE BOOK OF LORD SHANG (商君书) 18: Chap 1, 3: Agriculture and War
By Anonymous
2009-05-13 01:44:50
 

(Translated by J. J.-L. DUYVENDAK (1889-1954))

CHAPTER I

Paragraph 3
Agriculture and War

p.185 The means whereby a ruler of men encourages the people are office and rank; the means whereby a country is made prosperous are agriculture and war. Now those who seek office and rank, never do so by means of agriculture and war, but by artful words and empty doctrines. That is called “wearying the people”. *6b The country of those who weary their people will certainly have no strength, and the country of those who have no strength will certainly be dismembered. Those who are capable in organizing a country teach the people that office and rank can only be acquired through one opening, and thus, there being no rank without office, the state will do away with fine speaking, with the result that the people will be simple; being simple, they will not be licentious. The people, seeing that the highest benefit comes only through one opening, will strive for concentration (611b), and having concentration, will not be negligent in their occupations. When the people are not negligent in their occupations, they will have much strength, and when they have much strength the state will be powerful.

But now the people within the territory all say that by avoiding agriculture and war, office and rank may be acquired, with the result that eminent men all change their occupations, p.186 to apply themselves to the study of the Odes and History and to follow improper standards (612); on the one hand, they obtain prominence, and on the other, they acquire office and rank.

Insignificant individuals (613) will occupy themselves with trade and will practise arts and crafts, all in order to avoid agriculture and war, thus preparing a dangerous condition for the state (614). Where the people are given to such teachings, it is certain that such a country will be dismembered. # The way to organize a country well is, even though the granaries are filled, not to be negligent in agriculture, and even though the country is large and its population numerous, to have no licence of speech. (This being so), the people will be simple and have concentration; the people being simple and having concentration, then office arid rank cannot be obtained by artfulness. If these cannot be obtained by *7a artfulness, then wickedness will not originate; and if wickedness does not originate, the ruler will not be suspicious.

p.187 # But now the people within the territory, and those who hold office and rank, see that it is possible to obtain, from the court, office and rank by means of artful speech and sophistry. Therefore, there is no permanency in office and rank, with the result that at court they deceive their ruler and, retiring from court, they think of nothing but of how to realize their selfish interests and thus sell power (615) to their inferiors. Now deceiving the ruler and being concerned for their own interests is not to the advantage of the state, but those who thus act, do so for the sake of rank and emolument; selling power to inferiors is not proper for a loyal minister, but those who thus act do so for the sake of insignificant presents.

Consequently all the lower officials, who hope for promotion, say: — If we send many presents, we may obtain the higher office which we desire. They say too: — To strive for promotion, without serving superiors with presents, is like setting a cat as bait for a rat (616) — it is absolutely hopeless. To strive for promotion by serving superiors with sincerity is like wishing to climb a crooked tree by holding on to a broken rope — it is even more hopeless. If, to attain promotion, these two methods are out of the question, what else can we do, in striving for it, but bring the masses below us into action and obtain presents, for the purpose of serving our superiors (617) ? *7b 

p.188 The people say: We till diligently, first to fill the public granaries, and then to keep the rest for the nourishment of our parents; for the sake of our superiors we forget our love of life, and fight for the honour of the ruler and for the peace of the country. But if the granaries are empty, the ruler debased and the family poor, then it is best to seek office. Let us then combine relatives and friends and think of other plans. Eminent men will apply themselves to the study of the Odes and History, and pursue these improper standards (618); insignificant individuals will occupy themselves with trade, and practise arts and crafts, all in order to avoid agriculture and war (619).

Where the people are given to such teachings, how can the grain be anything but scarce, and the soldiers anything but weak ?

The way to administer a country well, is for the law for the officials to be clear; therefore one does not rely on intelligent and thoughtful men. The ruler makes the people singleminded, and therefore they will not scheme for selfish profit. Then the strength of the country will be consolidated. A country where the strength has been consolidated, is powerful, but a country that loves talking is dismembered. Therefore is it said: « If there are a thousand people engaged in agriculture and war, and only one in the Odes and History, p.189 and clever sophistry, then those thousand will all be remiss in agriculture and war; *8a if there are a hundred people engaged in agriculture and war and only one in the arts and crafts, then those hundred will all be remiss in agriculture and war (620).

The country depends on agriculture and war for its peace, and likewise the ruler, for his honour. Indeed, if the people are not engaged in agriculture and war, it means that the ruler loves words and that the officials have lost consistency of conduct. If there is consistency of conduct in officials, the country is well-governed (621); and if single-mindedness is striven after, the country is rich; to have the country both rich and well governed is the way to attain supremacy. Therefore is it said: « The way to supremacy is no other than by creating single-mindedness !

However, nowadays, the ruler, in his appointments, takes into consideration talent and ability and cleverness and intelligence, and thus clever and intelligent men watch for the likes and dislikes of the ruler, so that officials are caused to transact their business in a way which is adapted to the ruler’s mind. As a result there is no consistency of conduct in the officials, the state is in disorder and there is no concentration. Sophists (are honoured) (622) and there is no law. Under such circumstances, how can the people’s affairs p.190 be otherwise than many and how can the land be otherwise than fallow ?

If, in a country, there are the following ten things: odes and history, rites and music, virtue and the cultivation thereof, benevolence and integrity, sophistry and intelligence (623), then the ruler has no one whom he can employ for defence and warfare. If a country is governed by means of these ten things, it will be dismembered as soon as an enemy approaches, and even if no enemy approaches, it will be poor. But if a country banishes these ten things, enemies will not dare to approach, and even if they should, they would be driven back.

When it mobilizes its army and attacks, it will gain victories; when it holds the army in reserve and does not attack, it will be rich. A country that loves strength makes assaults with what is difficult, and thus it will be successful. A country that loves sophistry makes assaults with what is easy, and thus it will be in danger (624).

Therefore sages and intelligent princes are what they are, not because they are able to go to the bottom of all things, but because they understand what is essential in all things. Therefore the secret of their administration of the country lies in nothing else than in their examination of what is essential. But now, those who run a state for the most part overlook what is essential, and the discussions at court, on government, are confused, and efforts are made to displace each other in them; thus the prince is dazed by talk, officials p.191 confused by words, and the people become lazy and will not farm. The result is that all the people within the territory change and become fond of sophistry, take pleasure in study, pursue trade, practise arts and crafts, and shun agriculture and war; and so in this manner (the ruin of the country) will not be far off. When the country has trouble, then because studious people hate law, and merchants are clever in bartering and artisans are useless, the state will be easily destroyed.

Indeed, if farmers are few, and those who live idly on others are many, then the state will be poor and in a dangerous condition. Now, for example, if various kinds of caterpillars (625), which are born in spring and die in autumn, appear only once, *9a the result is that the people have no food for many years.

Now, if one man tills and a hundred live on him, it means that they are like a great visitation of caterpillars. Though there may be a bundle of the Odes and

History in every hamlet and a copy in every family, yet it is useless for good government, and it is not a method whereby this condition of things may be reversed. Therefore the ancient kings made people turn back to agriculture and war. For this reason is it said: « Where a hundred men farm and one is idle, the state will attain supremacy; where ten men farm and one is idle, the state will be strong; where half farms and half is idle, the p.192 state will be in peril (626).

That is why those who govern the country well, wish the people to take to agriculture. If the country does not take to agriculture, then in its quarrels over authority with the various feudal lords, it will not be able to maintain itself, because the strength of the multitude will not be sufficient. Therefore the feudal lords vex its weakness and make use of its state of decadence; and if the territory is invaded and dismembered, without the country being stirred to action, it will be past saving.

A sage knows what is essential in administrating a country, and so he induces the people to devote their attention to agriculture. If their attention is devoted to agriculture, then they will be simple, and being simple, they may be made correct. Being perplexed, it will be easy to direct them (627); being trustworthy, they may be used for defence and warfare. Being single-minded, opportunities of deceit will be few, and they will attach importance to their homes (628). Being single-minded, their careers may be made dependent on rewards and penalties; *9b being single-minded, they may be used abroad.

Indeed, the people will love their ruler and obey his p.193 commandments even to death (629), if they are engaged in farming, morning and evening; but they will be of no use if they see that glib-tongued, itinerant scholars succeed in being honoured in serving the prince, that merchants succeed in enriching their families, and that artisans have plenty to live upon. If the people see both the comfort and advantage of these three walks of life, then they will indubitably shun agriculture; shunning agriculture, they will care little for their homes; caring little for their homes, they will certainly not fight and defend these for the ruler’s sake (630).

Generally speaking, in administrating a country, the trouble is when the people are scattered and when it is impossible to consolidate them. That is why a sage tries to bring about uniformity and consolidation. A state where uniformity of purpose has been established for one year, will be strong for ten years; where uniformity of purpose has been established for ten years, it will be strong for a hundred years, where uniformity of purpose has been established for a hundred years, p.194 it will be strong for a thousand years; and a state which has been strong for a thousand years will attain supremacy (631).

An ordinary prince cultivates the system of rewards and penalties in order to support his teaching of uniformity of purpose, and in this way his teaching has permanency and his administration is successfully established. But he who attains supremacy, succeeds in regulating those things which are most essential for the people, and therefore, even without *10a the need of rewards and gifts, the people will love their ruler; without the need of ranks and emoluments, the people will follow their avocations; without the need of penalties, the people will do their duty to the death.

When a country is in peril and the ruler in anxiety, it is of no avail to the settling of this danger for professional talkers to form battalions (632). The reason why a country is in danger and its ruler in anxiety lies in some strong enemy or in another big state. Now if a prince is unable to vanquish that strong enemy or to destroy that big state, he improves his defences, makes the best use of the topographical conditions, consolidates the strength of the people and thus meets the foreign attack. After this the danger may be averted and supremacy yet attained. That is why an intelligent prince, in improving the administration, strives for uniformity, removes those who are of no use, restrains volatile scholars and those of frivolous pursuits, and makes them all uniformly into farmers. Thereafter the reigning dynasty may become rich and the people’s strength may be consolidated. 

p.195 Nowadays, the rulers of the world are all anxious over the perilous condition of their countries and the weakness of their armies, and they listen at all costs to the professional talkers: but though these may form battalions, talk profusely and employ beautiful expressions, it is of no practical use. When a ruler loves their sophistry and does not seek for their practical value, then the professional talkers have it all their own way, expound their crooked sophistries in the streets, their various groups become great crowds, and the people, seeing that they succeed in captivating kings, dukes and great men, all imitate them (633). *10b Now, if men form parties, the arguments and dissensions in the country will be of confusing diversity; the lower classes will be amused and the great men will enjoy it, with the result that amongst such a people farmers will be few and those who, in idleness, live on others will be many.

These latter being numerous, farmers will be in a perilous position, and this being so, land will be left lying fallow. If study becomes popular, people will abandon agriculture and occupy themselves with debates, high-sounding words and discussions on false premises; abandoning agriculture, they will live on others in idleness, and seek to surpass one another with words. Thus the people will become estranged from the ruler, and there will be crowds of disloyal subjects. This is a doctrine which leads to the impoverishment of the state and to the weakening of the army. Indeed, if a country employs people for their talking, then the people will not be nurtured in agriculture; so it is p.196 only an intelligent prince who understands that by fondness for words one cannot strengthen the army nor open up the land. Only when a sage rules the country will he strive for singleness of purpose and for the consolidation of the people in agriculture, and for that alone.

 
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