A young prince turned to his aging father, the Shah, for advice:

“Tell me, father, how can I govern the country after you, to keep the subjects obedient?”

“It’s very simple, my son,” replied the old man, “keep everyone in fear and dependency on you. Start by imposing high taxes on peasants and craftsmen. If a peasant can afford to give you one-tenth of his income, then enact a law requiring two-tenths. If a craftsman used to pay a tax of 10 coins, then introduce a law demanding 20 coins.”

“But they won’t be able to afford such taxes, father. They’ll protest, hide their incomes.”

“Exactly. And then allow tax collectors to turn a blind eye to this deceit.”

“But then the subjects will bribe tax collectors to overlook their violations.”

“Exactly. And then all peasants and craftsmen will become criminals and fear the state. They will never protest, or demand anything from you because they will feel guilty.”

“What about the tax collectors?”

“Place supervisors over them, and let them occasionally catch tax collectors for embezzlement. Let every tax collector understand that supervisors know about their misdeeds and can catch any of them red-handed and take them to court. Fear of punishment will make tax collectors loyal to you and keep them obedient more effectively than any oath.”

“And what about the supervisors?”

“Let there be not just one supervisor, but several, and let them all inform on each other. Thus, you’ll have dirt on any of them, and you’ll be able to destroy any of them whenever you wish. Then they’ll fear you, depend on you, flatter you, worship you. Your power will rest on them.”

“Beware of those who obey all laws and pay all taxes. They are the most dangerous people for you, son. They fear no one because there’s nothing to accuse them of and no reason to imprison them. They will demand justice and enforcement of laws from everyone, even tax collectors and supervisors, and even from you. And then they will decide to govern the state themselves, with the help of their smartest and most honest representatives.

Therefore, son, enact unattainable laws, force subjects to violate laws, turn them into frightened criminals, and calmly govern them.

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