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Bernard M -- Taipei English Tutor

Bernard M - English Conversation / TOEFL / IELTS 一對一英文會話

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A healthier view of the state

To view the state as a necessary evil is a commonplace. But all too often some excuse is found to get on the state's payroll. More often than not, making a living by working for the government is not only not condemned but even praised in the name of public service, as in China's mandarinate system or Prussia's civil service.

Below is an excerpt from The Middle East by Bernard Lewis (p. 188). In my view it represents a far more moral stance based on a better sociological understanding:
In the early centuries of Islamic history, the relationship between the state and the ulema [Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law] was distant, even at times one of mutual suspicion. For the truly pious, the state was a necessary evil, but one with which good men would not become involved. The service of the state were obtained by extortion, and anyone who received a salary from the state was a participant in this sin. It became a commonplace in the biographies of pious and learned men that the hero of the narrative was offered an appointment by the state and refused it. The offer established his fame, the refusal his integrity.

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