Ésta es una traducción al inglés por Burton Watson. Los escritos tratan sobre los consejos de este legalista chino que vivió hace más de dos mil doscientos años hacia el rey o gobernante o soberano que el idealizaba en esa época y lugar del mundo.
Ya que su corriente filosófica tenía que ver con el realismo los consejos son brutales, al grano sin tener en cuenta la bondad o modales con tal de que el país que el soberano regía lograra prosperar y sobrevivir esa época donde habían tantas guerras. Es un poco parecido a la época y lugar en la que vivía Maquiavelo cuando escribió El Príncipe, sólo que la época Han Feizi contaba con más guerra y por eso su visión es mucha más cruda y sin adornos.
Una cuestión recurrente es el gobernante como centro de todo el gobierno, no dar a sus ministros la potestad de infligir castigos o dar recompensas en nombre del soberano porque esto los corrompe y la población no ve qué papel juega el soberano. Pero en la época actual no sé qué tan factible sea, muchas veces se ve en las noticias cuando algún presidente o gobernante quiere ser central en todas las decisiones y eso crea muchos cuellos de botella que hace que todo se atrase.
Aunque hay muchos consejos para el gobernante como el de mantener una máscara y no dar muestras de qué le disgusta o qué le gusta porque de esa manera puede ser tentado o enfurecido para sacarlo de balance, esto con el objetivo de manipularlo o quitarlo del poder. Pienso que esos sos buenos consejos, hay que controlar nuestras reacciones y minimizar esos deseos incontrolables qué sólo traerán malos resultados.
Debido a que es un texto viejo y en ese entonces, según entiendo aún no habían inventado el papel o técnicas de almacenamiento, a veces el texto está corrompido o simplemente no existe entonces se hace difícil para el traductor hacer un buen trabajo. Pero no ocurre muy seguido en este texto, en general es un muy buen libro y en su época los escritos completos influenciaron en cierta medida al primer emperador de China.
Therefore the enlightened ruler works with facts and discards useless theories. He does not talk about deeds of benevolence and righteousness, and he does not listen to the words of scholars. (Hablando de los seguidores de Confucio en su época)
Unlike Confucianism and Mohism, it made no attempt to preserve or restore the customs and moral values of the past; indeed, it professed to have no use for morality whatsoever.
The Legalist ruler, head of a vast bureaucracy, does the same, issuing orders, quietly judging the efficiency of his ministers, but refraining from any personal intervention in the actual affairs of administration; he sets up the machinery of government and then allows it to run by itself.
The ruler, to succeed, must eschew all impulses toward mercy and affection and be guided solely by enlightened self-interest.
It is one of those books that will compel attention in any age, for it deals with a problem of unchanging importance—the nature and use of power.
Being empty, he can comprehend the true aspect of fullness; being still, he can correct the mover.
The ruler must not reveal his desires; for if he reveals his desires his ministers will put on the mask that pleases him.
He must not reveal his will; for if he does so his ministers will show a different face.
Discard likes and dislikes and the ministers will show their true form; discard wisdom and wile and the ministers will watch their step.
When you perceive the trend of a man’s words, do not change them, do not correct them, but examine them and compare them with the results.
Find men who have a clear understanding of what is beneficial to the nation and a feeling for the system of laws and regulations, and place them in charge of the lesser officials; then the ruler can never be deceived by lies and falsehoods.
Find men who have a clear understanding of what is beneficial to the nation and the judgment to weigh issues properly, and put them in charge of foreign affairs; then the ruler can never be deceived in his relations with the other powers of the world.
Honorable and humble do not get in each other’s way, and stupid and wise find their proper place. This is the perfection of good government.
What the law has decreed the wise man cannot dispute nor the brave man venture to contest.
They cajole the ruler into letting them inflict punishment themselves on men they hate and bestow rewards on men they like.
Do away with likes, do away with hates, and the ministers will show their true colors.
Do away with likes, do away with hates, and the ministers will show their true colors. And when the ministers have shown their true colors, the ruler of men will never be deceived.
Never enrich a man to the point where he can afford to turn against you;6 never ennoble a man to the point where he becomes a threat; never put all your trust in a single man and thereby lose your state.
the sage does not try to practice the ways of antiquity or to abide by a fixed standard, but examines the affairs of the age and takes what precautions are necessary.
Those who think they can take the ways of the ancient kings and use them to govern the people of today all belong in the category of stump-watchers!
Nowadays, however, the magistrate of a district dies and his sons and grandsons are able to go riding about in carriages for generations after.
Hence, when men of ancient times made light of material goods, it was not because they were benevolent, but because there was a surplus of goods; and when men quarrel and snatch today, it is not because they are vicious, but because goods have grown scarce.
When the sage rules, he takes into consideration the quantity of things and deliberates on scarcity and plenty. Though his punishments may be light, this is not due to his compassion; though his penalties may be severe, this is not because he is cruel; he simply follows the custom appropriate to the time. Circumstances change according to the age, and ways of dealing with them change with the circumstances.
benevolence and righteousness served for ancient times, but no longer serve today.
as circumstances change the ways of dealing with them alter too.
Men of high antiquity strove for moral virtue; men of middle times sought out wise schemes; men of today vie to be known for strength and spirit.
Benevolence may make one shed tears and be reluctant to apply penalties; but law makes it clear that such penalties must be applied.
The people will bow naturally to authority, and he who wields authority may easily command men to submit; therefore Confucius remained a subject and Duke Ai continued to be his ruler.
On the basis of righteousness alone, Confucius would never have bowed before Duke Ai; but because the duke wielded authority, he was able to make Confucius acknowledge his sovereignty.
for people by nature grow proud on love, but they listen to authority.
the enlightened ruler makes his laws precipitous and his punishments severe.
he who manages to get clothing and food without working for them is called an able man, and he who wins esteem without having achieved any merit in battle is called a worthy man. But the deeds of such able and worthy men actually weaken the army and bring waste to the land.
If I were to give advice from the point of view of the private individual, I would say the best thing is to practice benevolence6 and righteousness and cultivate the literary arts.
If people regard8 those who act with integrity and good faith as worthy, it must be because they value9 men who have no deceit, and they value men of no deceit because they themselves have no means to protect themselves from deceit.
Once the wisdom of its foreign18 policy is exhausted and its internal government has fallen into disorder, no state can be saved from ruin.
He who claims to be sure of something for which there is no evidence is a fool, and he who acts on the basis of what cannot be proved is an imposter.
Not to use what you approve of and not to suppress what you disapprove of—this is the way to confusion and ruin.
Likewise the Confucians and cavaliers gain fame and glory without the hardships of service in the army; they are in fact useless citizens, no different from funerary dolls.
If someone were to go around telling people, “I can give you wisdom and long life!”, then the world would regard him as an impostor. Wisdom is a matter of man’s nature, and long life is a matter of fate, and neither human nature nor fate can be got from others.
you could simply listen to what the people say. The reason you cannot rely upon the wisdom of the people is that they have the minds of little children.