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Lectures to the Chinese by Alfred De Grazia

PART TWO:  The Eight Goods

8. Ruling Well

A Great Wall of mysteries surrounds every country. I have escorted you behind the Great Wall of America, pointing out the errors and the achievements within. I have urged the construction of some new gates into the future. It is time to erect the twenty-three towers of principle, by which the country may be governed according to the eight goods. If you like them, you can paint them upon big-character posters and plaster them upon the small walls within the Great Wall of China.


When I thought about entering China to deliver these lectures, I had some bad moments. I imagined being called in and made to recite the ruling principles in advance. I would be brought before an official, somebody called by a title, like People's Leader Against Resurgent Decadent Capitalism Chang Hu. Then I would tell him that I had come to talk about the Americans and their the bads and goods, and his secretary would write everything down and make me sign a transcript of the conversation. And then he would usher me out to the airport and bid me goodbye. The conversation would go something like this.

Chang Hu: Why have you come to China?

A: I have come 15,000 li to speak at Peking.

Chang Hu: That is impossible, 15,000 li is middle America.

A: "Ten thousand miles and ten thousand mountains are nothing." So says Mao. I came from Chicago.

Chang Hu: There is no Chicago.

A: It is almost as large as Peking.

Chang Hu: Impossible. Why are you here?

A: TO help the People's Revolution, as a teacher. I give you Hsun Tzu:

If a man is without a teacher or precepts, them if he is intelligent, he will certainly become a robber; if he is brave, he will certainly become a murderer; if he has ability, he will certainly cause disorder; if he is an investigator, he will certainly become bizarre; if he is a dialectician, he will certainly go far from the truth. If he has a teacher and precepts, then if he is intelligent, he will quickly become learned; if he is brave, he will quickly become awe-inspiring; if he has ability, he will quickly become perfect; if he is an investigator, he will quickly arrive at all truth; if he is a dialectician, he will quickly be able to determine the truth or falsity of all things. Therefore the possession of a teacher and of precepts is the greatest treasure a man can have.....

Chang Hu: Enough!

A: I am sorry. I guess it is rather long.

Chang Hu: If you again quote an old Confucian or anybody but Chairman Mao, you will be spreading manure with some other teachers I know.

A: I can teach how the lessons of Mao apply to America. I have discovered that Americans are Maoist in some ways and surely this will help the People's Revolution.

Chang Hu: Maybe yes, maybe no. Tell them to me. And one by one. Some must surely be banished. Maybe all of them.

A: All party cadres and offices must be opened up to merit, to debate. We must be honest and teach our children to be honest and truthful. Deception must be scorned. "Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools contend...."

Chang Hu: All right, all right.... I know that one.

A: The old society must be torn down. History must be rewritten. "We pointed our finger at China and praised and damned through the papers we wrote"; that's how American students follow Mao.

Chang Hu: You mean the students write about America that way?

A: Yes. It is the future that matters. Rethink all things in view of the future. Leaders must be raised up from the people. Promote good men and women.But suppress those who look backward. Suppress the bureaucrats, wherever they raise their heads.

Chang Hu: There are no bureaucrats here. Go on.

A: Organize by democratic cadres in all the factories, among the youth , the women, the people's army, the small farmers, so that they can march side by side with the new state, "Turn the army into a working force...The army is a school."

Chang Hu: The state is the people's cadres from all agencies.

A: Maybe yes, maybe no. We must crack the barriers that keep the true believers from seizing command of the factories and offices. Everyone must study, everyone must learn, we must make up for the centuries of slumber and exploitation.

Chang Hu: Do you know our Constitution?

A: Yes, I have even heard of a new one.

Chang Hu: There is no new one. Who wrote it?

A: Mao wrote it, with the help of the devoted cadres and comrades. The Constitution gives all rights to the people. It allows freedom to speak, march in processions, and put up big-character posters. Force must not be used against the people. They must be taught. The army is the friend of the people and is ready to fight foreign enemies.

Chang Hu: Are Americans as free?

A: They are free but very nervous.

Chang Hu: Why are they nervous?

A: Because they march backward and forward. They do not know where they want to go.

Chang Hu: Why don't they go to the doctors?

A: The doctors are impatient and nervous too. I have a plan for sending all American doctors and doctors' helpers to China and all Chinese doctors to America. As a result of the difference in their costs, America will save $50 billion a year and give China half of the money.

Chang Hu: It is true that Mao has asked for more exchanges with the outer world. Are the Americans rich?

A: They have many things, but they are not rich, and most do not know whether to say they are poor or rich.

Chang Hu: Then they are poor. Are they efficient?

A: They do everything well and everything poorly. For instance, they spend more money collecting taxes than they spend on their temples.

Chang Hu: Temples are bad. What of their machines?

A: The machines are usually too big and the people have to run after them instead of leading the machines.

Chang Hu: Does everyone work?

A: They are always complaining about not having enough work and then they say they are overworked. Which is also true.

Chang Hu: Are they afraid of our bombs?

A: Yes.

Chang Hu: They will be more afraid when we make more bombs.

A: No, they are already as afraid as they can get.

Chang Hu: Do they have people's assemblies?

A: Yes, many. And they are beginning to use hundreds of people's assemblies in all the bureaucracies. They are desperate about all the rules that they must follow.

Chang Hu: Why don't they unleash the young Red Guards?

A: They have bad leaders who wish to delay the revolution by promises and by confusing everyone.

Chang Hu: Do the workers own the factories?

A: Not yet, but the workers will begin to own more of the means of production.

Chang Hu: Who owns the country?

A: The government, the billionaires, and the big companies own most of it. But people do not believe it. They think and work as if they were about to gain ownership of it.

Chang Hu: Do you mean that they act as if they owned the country?

A: Yes, and I suppose that if they act that way hard enough, they will soon come to own it.

Chang Hu: When do they plan to attack the Chinese People's Republic?

A: They have no plans. They cannot figure out what to do with China. Some want to build factories here.

Chang Hu: Will they exploit workers and take profits?

A: No. They are afraid of workers and they will take out fixed revenues. They will even go away and leave the factories behind. They want world order.

Chang Hu: What?

A: World order, ta t'ung. They are afraid that all the minerals and metals will be used up and people will go to war over the little that's left.

Chang Hu: Why don't they live more economically?

A: They are beginning to do so. They are even changing their diets. They eat chow mein and pizza day and night. They do not crow about growth any more. They are getting a feeling for the world. Remember Comrade Mao's poem?


You don't need all that height or snow.

If I could lean on heaven, grab my sword, and cut you in three parts,

I would send one to Europe, one to America, and keep one part here in China that the world would have peace and the globe share the same heat and ice.1

The Americans will soon give up one third of their GNP.

Chang Hu: What is that, their mountains?

A: No. It stands for all the goods and services they produce, the Grotesque National Product.

Chang Hu: Do the American police have a hard life, as I do?

A: The police feel they need sympathy because there are too many shootings, and sometimes police get killed, especially on television.

Chang Hu: No more police get killed here, but, in the good old days...

A: Good old....?

Chang Hu: No, I didn't mean that. Just an expression. I will soon retire.

A: In America, you would have a good pension.

Chang Hu: I have very little, but there's my good old family...

A: You seem young. You should make trade with America.

Chang Hu: That is the Foreign Trade Department. They decide what trade to make.

A: I can see you have an orderly, neat mind.

Chang Hu: Yes. I am strict. I demand perfection.

A: You should begin to make boxes, you know, the little boxes that fit very neatly into other boxes.

Chang Hu: Oh, yes, of course I know. I like them, tightfitting and straight and hard, with secret openings.

A: Exactly. Many Americans like them. The box appeals to something in their character that they are ashamed to show in their social formations.

Chang Hu: Good. If you will write a memorandum, mentioning my adeptness at box-making, I will present it at the Foreign Trade Department.

A: Of course. Perhaps you can also put a saying of Mao on the top lid, then on each smaller lid, one after another until even the tiniest box will have a word or two of Mao on its lid.

Chang Hu: I will sell you a box the next time you come.

A: Do you mean I can't stay in China?

Chang Hu: Are you kidding?

A: But how can I teach my principles of ruling well?

Chang Hu: Tell them to the Americans!

A: Chairman Mao will hear of your insufferable bureaucratic behavior. And of your plan to revive petit bourgeois capitalism, too!

Chang Hu: They are announcing the departure of your plane.

And then I would put myself into the airplane, rise into the high dark sky for many hours, and consider the principles of ruling well.


Yehu-cutsai said to Ogdai, son of Genghis Khan, "Your empire was conquered on horseback, but you cannot rule it from the back of a horse." To rule well the American republic, or a world republic, you need a benevolent and strongly motivated public; you require a constitution to frame public operations; and you need a set of intelligent interconnected policies-programmatics.

If the American public were well raised well raised and positioned to dominate politics, you would imagine it to possess certain traits. It would generate an active body of 10 million citizens, nearly 5 per cent of the populations, and would mirror by origin and occupation the constituents of the population.

Members of the public would give, either continuously or more intensively on occasion, of their time and energies. An average of three hundred hours per year between the age of sixteen until death would be adequate. The public would include a preponderance of altruistic characters, meaning by "altruistic" simply that they would be sympathetic with the needs and aspirations of all kinds of people. They would be educated to the new fundamentals of political economy, political culture, and public law.

In this too much to ask of 2 million teachers, journalists, paraprofessionals, and politicians? Not if they can first teach themselves. Such self-teaching consists mainly of rebuilding their minds upon the best part of some lessons already deeply felt and taught in the American political tradition. The primary resistance is against the learning of benevolence. If they cannot be altruistic, then they will teach others badly. Also, they must surpass the boundaries of their special interests in science or society, so as to impart to others the connections between their field and the larger world. To teach Watergate as a kind of obscene peep show may exhibit technical competence in journalism, but it is useless and dangerous as politics. Watergate was a fundamental summary of the eight bads.

As for the principles of economy, culture, and law, let me place them in the context of the ideal constitution. A constitution, it will be recalled, is the pattern of most important political practices of a society. The American Constitution can, I believe, be read in accord with the ideal constitution, although it might well be changed, too, in some regards. Here, however, I am setting forth another set of constitutional principles for ruling well, twenty-three in number. The eight bads and the eight goods are treated directly and indirectly within them, and if I do not refer specifically to the appropriate connections, you may infer them without difficulty.

The Twenty-three Principles

1. The Law Lives in Conduct. The laws mirror actual behavior; the law, that is, is living law.

2. All Are Equal in Law. All persons are equally subject to the law and the law is invalid when they are not. That is, no person may be legally penalized if he can show that the law being applied to him has not been equally applied to others.

3. Micro-Property Is Personal; Macro-Property Is Public. Small and self-developing property belongs to the people as persons; great property belongs to the people through their agents. These agents may be called workers, farmers, managers, directors, bureaucrats, or owners, so long as their actions are for the public good. (There is no dogmatic socialism or capitalism.)

4. Government Is Decentralized, with Five Autonomous Branches. The organs of government are the General Assembly, an Executive Cabinet headed by a President, a Supreme Court of nine or more judges, various Special Assemblies of geographic and economic constituencies, and Citizens over sixteen years of age. (The separation of powers and the decentralization of authority, as in federalism, are obvious here.)

5. Assemblies Mirror Their Constituents Proportionately. Assembly seats are filled for a three-year term from multi-membered districts by persons winning a quota of all the votes of their district. Assembly elections are held for one third of the seats annually at a time distinct from the presidential elections.

6. A Limited President, Popularly Elected. The President is elected by the people from a list of five candidates proposed by Congress for a single five-year term. A majority popular election will be assured by each voter expressing his or her preferences for the candidates from one up to five; each preferences number of the ballot will be counted inversely in accumulating each candidate's total; the candidate with the largest total is declared President by Congress. The four remaining candidate stand in line of succession to the presidency in the order of their totals. The President appoints a Cabinet with the approval of the Assembly. The Assembly may remove the President or any Cabinet member upon two-thirds vote for reasons of disability or actions destructive of the Constitution.

7. The Supreme Court Is Chosen by the Assembly and Organizes the Courts. The Supreme Court is drawn by lot from names submitted openly by each member of the Assembly. It sets up all subordinate courts.

8. The Combination of Ruling Organs Can Change the Constitution. This Constitution is supreme law. It can be interpreted or changed by a majority of any three organs, or by any two organs acting twice, three years apart. All Special Assemblies act as a unit of all their members for this purpose.

9. All Lawmaking Flows Through the Assembly. All organs can propose laws, but only the Assembly can enact laws. (Thus, law is coordinated and defined by the Assembly, with occasional ones halted and returned.)

10. Special Assemblies Are Organized for Geographical and Functional Constituencies. The Special Assemblies are apportioned out of the geographic and economic elements of the people by the Assembly, which assigns them jurisdiction and powers.

11. The Assembly Prescribes and the Supreme Court Audits the Representative Governments of Large Groups. Every Special Assembly and large independently organized group of the people is audited by the Supreme Court to guarantee its continuous practice of representative government in its internal and external operation. (Among such groups are labor unions, large companies, independent associations, and schools beyond the eleventh grade.)

12. Popular Referenda Are Held Under Special Conditions. A majority of the citizens can determine an issue if and when it is put to their vote by three of the four other principal organs.

13. The Equal-Activity Formula and Continuous Devolution. No new power over persons and things can be voted without a devolution or quitting of an equivalent power. All powers shall be periodically examined to determine whether they can be devolved or quitted.

14. The Countervailors Work Against Bureaucracy. A corps of tribunes is to be established by the Assembly for countervailance against bureaucracy. A tribunal is attached to every agency, company, or large group, with full access to their internal and external operations, and directed each year to publish a report of negative criticism of their goals, operations, personnel, and social value.

15. Official Actions Are Fully Public. All official actions that direct people how to behave are matters of public information unless three organs of government agree to make them secret.

16. Annual Accounting of the Life Conditions of the People. An accounting of the life conditions of the people, based upon intensive interviews of a sample of them, shall be made and published annually.

17. Expression Is Free. All expression is free and methods of counter-expression must be provided if they do not naturally occur. (That is, free expression must be full.)

18. Forced Confinement Is Strictly Limited. Unless determined by law to be sick. a person is not be spatially or functionally confined except for being juvenile (under fourteen years) and for two years between the ages of fourteen and sixty for purposes of universal civic service.

19. The Single Equal Tax and the Ban on Great Estates. Each year all governmental budgets shall be divided by the number of the people and each person charged with an equal part of all planned expenditures. No other tax shall be levied on any activity. The government is not to receive revenues from the estates of deceased persons, but all of such estates, beyond the necessities of surviving family, are to be distributed by the benefactor and testator among independent elements of the society.

20. The Personal Social Contract and Life Account System. In return for engaging oneself in the political community, every person, from womb to tomb, receives an annual credit sufficient to pay for the necessities of life. If drawn upon, it is to be paid back whenever possible, so as to balance ultimately in most cases one's life account. The necessities include basic health services, food, shelter, and education.

21. Voluntary Work at Variable Pay. Work for others is to be voluntary and its compensation arranged for by fair bargaining.

22. Abolition of the Immunity and Sovereignty of the State. Since the useful portions of the principle of sovereignty are contained in these principles, the principle of sovereignty itself is therefore abolished. The government is responsible and suable, as is every group in society.

23. Active Search for a World Order. In order to achieve the only secure base for enjoying these constitutional principles, the Assembly is directed to join in a common government and society based upon these principles with any other people in the world.

The twenty-three principles put forward here describe in the large a democracy, governed by representative assemblies, in accord with a rule of law, and aimed at the fulfillment of life's values among all the world's people. They are the structural implications of eight goods and the eight bads. They resolve favorably the contradiction of the force culture against the free culture, the contradictions of the eight bads against the eight goods.

Technically speaking, nothing stands in the way of their achievement. The world has begun to decline at an alarming rate with respect to human necessities and human rights. But it is always possible to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Not likely. Just possible.

If only all people would be willing to understand the need for change when change is necessary, the technical problems of politics would be solvable and the politics of government would become fairly obvious. It is man's character, not his desires, that defeats good politics.

"Generally speaking," says Han Fei Tzu, "men hesitate to change ancient traditions because they are diffident about affecting the peace of the people." A self-elected group of revolutionaries must purse change, then, because the people and their normal leaders are loath to disturb the "peace." No actual large popular grouping, such as social class, can seize power abruptly, save through a special small group of unique composition which acts in the name of independence, or of threatened national or religious unity, or of the rights of businessmen, farmers, or workers. Hence, some small group of leaders, must persuade the people that the future of a free culture stands with the defeat of the eight bads and the success of the eight goods and the twenty-three principles, and these few must out-struggle any competing groups.

Nearly always, following upon seizures of power, a series of purges follows in which some of the old culture is destroyed and some of the original leaders are liquidated. Rarely has there occurred a true revolution without violence and destruction. Americans forget that their greatest periods of changes came in the throes of mass struggles and war. The French and Indian War opened the West and North. The Revolutionary War destroyed the aristocracy and most great fortunes. The Civil War ruined much of the South and, less directly, other parts of the country. World Wars I and II brought the end of rural domination and introduced statism. The Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, several military adventures, and the two world wars brought imperial stature and world preeminence. The American mentality is partially constructed of bloodshed and conquest, even while it considers itself peaceful and law-abiding. It may seem then to be impossible to bring about the revolutionary changes that are needed by Americans, without at least some amount of violence at home and abroad.

Yet it would be well to drive home the proper definition of revolution at every opportunity. A revolution is a large-scale. intensive set of changes of political culture in a short period of time. Therefore, the possibility always exists that a revolution may avoid violence.

A good revolutionary holds violence as an ultimate undesirable necessity, dislikes changes for the sake of changes, and considers his revolutionary changes programmatic--that is, interconnected, necessary as a whole, mutually supportive, and ultimately highly effective. A bad revolutionary loses his revolution in the violence of his methods.

We conclude, again with words of Han Fei Tzu:

Those who do not know the right way to political order always say, "Never change ancient traditions, never remove existing institutions." Change or no change, the sage does not mind. For he aims only at the rectification of government. Whether or not ancient traditions should be changed, whether or not existing institutions should be removed, all depends upon the question whether or not such traditions and such institutions are still useful for present-day political purposes.

Also, I would add, all depends upon whether something beneficial and believable is proposed in place of the old. Knowing how to find "the right way" is essential.


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