Wise kings of the past would reward or punish an individual based upon his merits or misdeeds. The despots of tottering dynasties would punish or reward an individual based on their personal preferences.
Scroll 23: Hou Han Shu, Vol. 3
If rewards are not given to the deserving individual, good people will lose their confidence and begin to doubt if their efforts are worthwhile. If punishments are not given to the perpetrators, evil people will disregard the laws and continue with their wrongdoings without any shame or fear.
Scroll 46: Zhong Lun
Hence the ancient sage-kings have passed down this lesson to us: Those who recommend the virtuous to take on official posts will be rewarded handsomely; those who stifle the appointment of the virtuous will be punished severely.
Scroll 49: Fu Zi
Official titles and stipends are the basis of a nation’s authority, and they pave the way to wealth. Hence, the conferring of titles and stipends cannot be deemed unimportant. If this is the case, anyone who is not virtuous should not be conferred any official titles; anyone who is not meritorious should not be given stipends. Once the rules and regulations regarding the conferring of titles and stipends are established, good officials will not dare to accept noble titles if their moral standing is unsatisfactory; dedicated ministers will not dare to accept handsome stipends if their contributions are meager. Under such circumstances, will men of small virtue
and meager contributions dare to use deceptive maneuvers to meddle with the system of titles and stipends?
Scroll 49: Fu Zi
The Marquis Wen of Wei (state) asked Li Ke: “What factors contributed to the emergence of punishment?” Li Ke said: “Punishment was born as a means to subdue treacherous and promiscuous behaviors. Just as hunger and cold will compel people to commit treacherous acts, the consumption of overly decorative garments by high society will bring about dissolute behavior. When farm workers are forced to build lavish mansions with intricate carvings,
this will hinder their agricultural production. When the female needleworkers are forced to make excessive ornamented garments this will hinder their normal textile
production. Delayed agricultural production is the source of hunger, and delayed textile production is the source of not having enough warm clothing for the cold weather. Rare indeed were treacherous crimes that occurred where the ordinary people had not first been reduced to hunger and poverty. Rare indeed were promiscuities that had not been preceded by men and women showing off to each other in their excessive make-up and ornamented wardrobes. …If the ruler does not rectify the root cause of punishment but to seek only to punish the people, surely this will be detrimental to the well-being of the country.”
Scroll 43: Shuo Yuan