It is in the State's best interest to take to the far corners of the land what there is in need, and to keep a proper balance between the products from all the different regions that it rules. It cannot be said that the State competes with the people, because the State rules the people. The State is above the people, and the State's choices look forward to keep the general welfare of the people, as it suits a good and wise ruler. In truth, with the State monopolies, we are just taking care that resources that are indispensable to the State's growth and to the general welfare of the people do not come to be in the hands of inescrupulous merchants.
You talk about agriculture, but how could agriculture be benefitted if the industries upon which it depends, the State monopolies over salt, iron and alcohol, came to fall again in the hands of merchants? To talk about starvation when there is plenty of richness and wealth does not make any sense. The people will starve when the State became unable to take salt and iron to the most far reaching domains in the land.
Besides, not only the farmers, but the State itself also need to have artisans and merchants. Some farmers will turn to the many crafts or to trade, it is true, but this is part of the State's growth. It does not mean that agriculture will stop being the base of the State. There is no evidence that points out to that, except from your obsessive desperation. Agriculture is not in decline, but rather it is increasing, as more lands came to be part of the State, and more Peoples are brought to the rule of the State.
You say that we should depende on benevolence alone to bring other Peoples to us. That is sheer utopy. Barbarians are barbarians by their own nature. They are not humans, because they don't have any civility. Mencius already said that. Shunzi remembers us that human nature is bad. We should not rely upon the benevolence of others. We should rather stretch more and more our frontiers, always bringing more Peoples to the way of civility and to our wise rule. It is our duty to teach them the path toward self-cultivation, and they will not seek it unless we first integrate them into our State. But since they lack civility, the only way to do that is through military conquest. Besides, it is indeed very easy to talk about all that when none of you are in the frontiers, fighting against those barbarians on a daily basis. I would not regard it as so easy if they were at your very doors.
Confucius said that if a man has to be poor in order to serve his duty, so be it. It doesn't mean that all have the duty to be poor. It is a very corrupted rhetoric! He also says that the subject must abide to his Sovereign. You have some valuable advice, and for that we are grateful, but our Illustrious Sovereign and our Great Regent are benevolent beyond all measures, and it does not fit you to judge them.
And so you talk about those ideals of a simple life. That is noble of your part. But if the State...