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The Ruler's Guide

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Message Harold Novikoff
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To gain an historical perspective on Trump's administration, it would be fitting to go back over 1300 years to the time of the Tang dynasty, referred to by historians as China's Golden Age. A new book by Chinghua Tang, "The Ruler's Guide", is about the founder of the dynasty, Tang Taizong, China's greatest emperor, and his philosophy for success in governing. The guide is the written record of conversations with his ministers during the course of his regime. This article paraphrases the first chapter only.

The requirements of leadership are discussed concisely. Taizong realizes the need to hold daily meetings with his cabinet ministers and reach out frequently to junior officials to know what is going on in the country.

The ruler must conduct himself properly to set a good example for those below him to follow. Self-indulgence will interfere with his work. Sage kings of the past nurture their virtues to gain insight for doing a good job.

Self-Awareness: An enlightened ruler must know his own inadequacies. A ruler who tries to cover up his own faults remains in poor light.

The ruler is the head but his ministers are the arms and legs. The ruler may be wise, but he needs his ministers to help him govern.

Taizong is quoted as saying: "Before I say anything at my daily audience, I'll think about how people may react to my words." Also: "If an ordinary man says something wrong, it could bring shame on him. If the ruler has a slip of the tongue, the consequences could be disastrous."

Following the guidance of Confucius' Analects, Taizong is given the advice not to show off his talent or knowledge, but to be modest, to listen to others' good advice; otherwise he will block communication with his subordinates and alienate himself from them.

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Veteran, retired from several occupations (school teacher, technical writer, energy conservation business, etc.) long-time Sierra Club member

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