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Good Governance

Plato imagined a philosopher king for his Republic. The ideal state, according to the philosopher, ensures the maximum possible happiness for all its citizens. All citizens. Not a particular community. Such a state can only be brought into being by a ruler who is also a philosopher. “Until philosophers are kings,” Plato wrote, “or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy … cities will never have rest from their evils.”

Some 19 centuries after Plato, Thomas More imagined an ideal country called Utopia which would have no king at all. Why would one individual – or a few individuals like in today’s parliamentary system – set up himself above all other citizens? More was highly displeased with what his King, Henry VIII, did with his political power. Henry was a selfish and ruthless man who used his power as a king for self-aggrandisement. Too many citizens lost their lives so that Henry could enjoy the best of everything including women. More was also a victim. Before More was executed at Henry’s order, he gave us his ideas about Utopia.

More’s Utopia does not rely much on money as most governments do. Look at the way prices are rising in today’s India. Look at the way taxes are added almost on a daily basis to the common man’s backbreaking burdens. This is just the opposite of what More imagined for his Utopia. The very idea of money corrupts governments and destroys justice and happiness in society, More argued. Wealth does not make people happy; it makes them greedy and greedier. You can see living proofs today for that. The billionaires are never satisfied with the amounts they have piled up in banks here and abroad, with money that’s white and black and in all possible colours. The moment you create a system that is founded on wealth and wealth-creation as primary virtues, you are paving the way for injustice, misery, and ultimately, crime. That is More’s argument.

People aren’t too bad. In fact, there is much goodness in people’s hearts. It is the system that reshapes the hearts. If people are forced to live in a system which gives all importance to wealth and little to cooperation and compassion, people will naturally lose the goodness in their hearts. What India is doing today is worse than that. It is openly supporting animosity between communities of people.

Good governance should start with bringing a spirit of camaraderie among citizens. Simple human goodness should be the foundation of the system even if that sounds too idealistic. Ideals are never fully practical. But discarding them just because they are not completely practical is like throwing away the baby with the bathwater. Creating a system founded on hatred is going to the other extreme of replacing the baby with demons.

People like to cooperate and help each other, as Rutger Bregman shows in his book Humankind. But without the support of the socio-political system they won’t be able to help and cooperate. You can make people hate one another, compete with one another, debilitate one another, more easily than create a system which encourages mutual help and cooperation. Which is better? You know the answer. Creating that better one calls for good governance. 

PS. I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z 

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  1. Hari Om
    In response to one of my own recent posts which highlighted that Love was more challenging to maintain than hatred, some wrote that they thought hate was too exhausting and Love was always easier... but they were mistaking Love referred in that post as being love of the normal sort one has for a pet or one's family. And let us face it, even that love is tested and hatred and anger so easily arise. Yes, hate is exhausting but it is also the emotion that is easiest to access. Unscrupulous leaders know exactly how to access and leverage that to their personal benefit and remove all benefit from the whole community that Love would bring. Another worthy post! YAM xx

    1. It's quite surprising that many - too many - Indians fail to understand this truth about hatred. This thing called nationalist pride is a degenerating drug and so too many are affected by its perversions.

  2. Can philosophy of life and philosophy of politics gel together? No. Democrats (of all parties, all countries) will try to add more fuel to the fire, and catch fish in muddy waters.

    1. Philosophy and politics can merge harmoniously as it did in Nehru. Now we have hard core criminals in Parliament. So we get crimes instead of governance.

  3. I agree with every point you made.

  4. Nodding at every word. Sad state of affairs. I hope people who hav right senses would easily know!

    Dropping by from a to z

  5. Hatred is easy because that's what we're used to. The blueprint for that already exists. Maybe cooperation feels idealistic because we don't have a blueprint for it...yet.

    1. I'm looking forward to an evolutionary mutation. Nothing else seems to work.

  6. Hatred is being manufactured and it has become so very frequent that any good occasion of religious nature has become an event of communal hatred. This is very scary.

    1. The only solution is people becoming aware of the menace and refusing to play along with politicians.


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