GS Paper IV Probity in Governance

The philosophical basis of governance

Kautilya was a true statesman who bridged the gap between experience and vision. For Kautilya, good governance was paramount. He suggested built-in checks and balances in systems and procedures for the containment of malpractices. Many postulates of Kautilya’s philosophy of political economy are applicable to contemporary times. Kautilya, also known as Chanakya, is India’s most illustrious political economist of all time. He regarded economic activity as the driving force behind the functioning of any political dispensation. In fact, he went to the extent of saying that revenue should take priority over the army because sustaining the army was possible out of a well-managed revenue system, which is key for good governance.

Kautilya’s philosophical basis of governance:

Good governance in Kautilya’s literature ARTHASASTRA is aimed at fulfilling the welfare of the people. “In the happiness of the King’s subjects lies his happiness, in their welfare, his welfare. Whatever pleases him personally, he shall not consider as good, but whatever makes his subjects happy, he shall consider good.” The jargon related to Human Resource Management was not prevalent then, but its essence was widely practised in Kautilya’s times. “The King should look to the bodily comforts of his servants by providing such emoluments as can infuse in them the spirit of enthusiasm to work. He should not violate the course of righteousness and wealth. Thus, he shall not only maintain his servants, but also increase their subsistence and wages in consideration of their learning and work.” Kautilya said that good governance and stability go hand in hand. According to him, there is stability if rulers are responsive, responsible, accountable, removable, and recallable, otherwise there would be instability.

The cardinal principle of economic administration was laid down in Kautilya’s Arthshastra in the following words – “The root of wealth is economic activity and lack of it brings material distress. In the absence of fruitful economic activity, both current prosperity and future growth are in danger of destruction. The King shall populate the countryside by creating new villages on virgin lands or reviving abandoned village sites.”

The Arthashastra equates political governance with economic governance. The end is economic governance while political governance is the means. But as economic objectives are not realised in the absence of political ones, then political governance becomes an end and economic governance the means. ‘The end justifies the means’, this is supposed to be the basis of Kautilya and Machiavellian philosophy. Political power and material wealth according to Kautilya are the means and ends of governance. And good governance – political or economic – depends upon justifying the ends and means as the socio, economic and political conditions. The three constituents of power are: intellectual power, military might, and enthusiasm and morale.

“State is not what is created by King but it is the king for the security of the state” . These words by Kautilya,the great guardian of King Chandragupta Maurya has laid the ethical principles of welfare state by socialised monarchy in his account Arthashastra which is of equal relevance even in today’s governance model.

Philosophy of Kautilya in governance:-Kautilya described that the king should be Raja Rishi means a king having sage qualities not deterrent by the materialistic world. He laid the principle of economic welfare in the root of state happiness as he said: “Happiness is rooted in dharma, which is rooted in economy, which in turn is rooted in victorious inner restraint”. He mentioned the taxation principles that it should be gradually increased, more on rich and not a burden to common masses which is still relevant. Talked of foreign policy and military for defence but always preferred peace over war as stating”One can easily lose a battle as easily he can win but it is very expensive as well as unpredictable better to avoid and follow upaya and sadgunya and when everything fails resort to military force”. He also laid the governance through ministers being kind, bold, strong, well-spoken, well trained and knowledge full and philanthropic to masses. We must learn from our ancient past regarding the governing principles of socialism, ethics, economic welfare that the very dream of modern post-independent India of the welfare state could only be achieved if we relish and follow it in every sphere of life.

Kautilya Arthasastra lightens the abyssal through the philosophical content of his book. who guides the king. according to Kautilya there are three issues which king should be considered:-

yaksha (welfare of the people)

It involves the well-being of the poorest of the poor. The Kaultiyan state, we are told, ensured freedom, happiness, prosperity, and full-fledged development of human personality. Yogakshema demanded a higher moral consciousness both at the elites’ and at the common people’s levels.”


the protection of the life and liberty of the individual
he stated that” single wheel cannot convert into the chariot” and said ethics and politics are entangled with each other unlike Machiavelli


Although its talk about law and justice. but through this, he wants to talk about equality and social justice. in fact, Arthsastra was as much ingrained with the philosophical basis of governance that he states that “the king should protect and take care of their citizen same like a father care and protect to his children” well, kutaliya Arthsastra is a multi-diverse book consist of economy, foreign policy, politics etc in which governance was even now guided by his progressive and idealistic and philosophical thought like India’s constitution talks about welfare state, right to life and liberty(article 19 &21), affirmative action(article 15&16)

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