Saturday, June 24, 2006

Generosity in Kings

I'm leaving on a big trip on Monday. I won't be back until August. I may do some posting during that period, but it will be off and on. Have a happy 4th, blow off some firecrackers, and also visit the Lutheran Carnival 26.

I'll leave you with these thoughts of Ghazan Khan:

One day in the presence of the emirs and grandees of the state he said, "The best thing a human being can do is to take on the qualities of God. This is particularly true for kings. Generosity and liberality are God's qualities, but that is a generosity such that no matter how much is given away it never decreases or ceases. What a human can do is but a drop in the sea compared to God; nonetheless, it is incumbent to try as hard as one can. Rulers and all people should spend as much money as they are able. If one gives without restraint for a few days and then is unable to spend anything or even to eat, what benefit is this to anyone? To give everything away to a few people and completely deprive others is not God's way. A ruler should be like the sun, whose rays reach everyone, and let his treasury be shared by all, especially the deserving, the needy, and those who have done good deeds -- among them the soldiers. How can it be proper to give to only a few people and then sit empty-handed and neither give to anyone nor be able to give? What benefit do they enjoy from such a person? What is the good of having imperial powers in that case?

"The generosity and liberality of kings should be like the water of a well or spring: no matter how much is taken out, more comes, and the amount never decreases. This is not possible without good administration of the kingdom, improvement of the land, fairness, and implementation of criminal retribution. Those who maintain an equilibrium in all things will receive compensation in proportion to the amount they give away. Otherwise, 'when you take away from a mountain and put nothing in its place, in the end the mountain will be leveled.'

"If we and you are inclined to wealth, generosity, and gift giving, we must practice justice and truth, for it is a characteristic of justice that to the extent that we know where the money comes from that fills the treasury, no matter how much we give away, the treasury will not be empty. It is good for us to be always capable of giving; otherwise, what use is a king who is capable one day and incapable the next, or rich for a time and poor for a time? Such is not the characteristic of a king. If it were, he would have to spend his days in grief and worry, and the people would be deprived of his gifts and learn to do without him as king.

"We must observe this rule and make it such that we give away however much comes in, neither piling everything up nor bankrupting ourselves all at once. There should always be a certain amount of capital, for it is the property of money that when there is a small amount of capital, more quickly comes in. It is like a hunter who has no bird to place in his snare for other birds of its feather to flock to: he can't catch anything. When he has one bird as his capital, with it he can catch many thousands of birds a year."

The emirs and ministers of state praised these words of the Padishah of Islam, and all were happy. From that date until this, gold and textiles have been flowing from the Padishah of Islam's treasury like water from a spring . . .
-- from p. 674-75 of the Compendium of Chronicles of Rashiduddin (also written Rashid al-Din), as translated by Wheeler M. Thackston.

Soliloquy of Ghazan Khan, Mongol ruler of the Middle East, 1295-1304, on the problem of cintamani governance.

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