[Conway] was particularly interested, as a student of affairs, in the way the valley population was governed; it appeared, on examination, to be a rather loose and elastic autocracy operated from the lamasery with a benevolence that was almost casual. It was certainly an established success, as every descent into that fertile paradise made more evident.
Conway was puzzled as to the ultimate basis of law and order; there appeared to be neither soldiers nor police, yet surely some provision must be made for the incorrigible?
Chang replied that crime was very rare, partly because only serious things were considered crimes, and partly because every one enjoyed a sufficiency of everything he could reasonably desire. In the last resort the personal servants of the lamasery had power to expel an offender from the valley — though this, which was considered an extreme and dreadful punishment, had only very occasionally to be imposed. But the chief factor in the government of Blue Moon, Chang went on to say, was the inculcation of good manners, which made men feel that certain things were “not done,” and that they lost caste by doing them.
“You English inculcate the same feeling,” Said Chang, “in your public schools, but not, I fear, in regard to the same things. The inhabitants of our valley, for instance’ feel that it is ‘not done’ to be inhospitable to strangers, to dispute acrimoniously, or to strive for priority amongst one another. The idea of enjoying what your English headmasters call the mimic warfare of the playing-field would seem to them entirely barbarous — indeed, a sheerly wanton stimulation of all the lower instincts.”
Conway asked if there were never disputes about women.
“Only very rarely, because it would not be considered good manners to take a woman that another man wanted.”
“Supposing somebody wanted her so badly that he didn’t care a damn whether it was good manners or not?”
“Then, my dear sir, it would be good manners on the part of the other man to let him have her, and also on the part of the woman to be equally agreeable. You would be surprised, Conway, how the application of a little courtesy all round helps to smooth out these problems.”
Certainly during visits to the valley Conway found a spirit of goodwill and contentment that pleased him all the more because he knew that of all the arts that of government has been brought least to perfection. When he made some complimentary remark, however, Chang responded: “Ah, but you see, we believe that to govern perfectly it is necessary to avoid governing too much.”
“Yet you don’t have any democratic machinery — voting, and so on?”
“Oh, no. Our people would be quite shocked by having to declare that one policy was completely right and another completely wrong.”
~ “Lost Horizon.” Hilton, James. Macmillan. 1933
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The Code of Eden
The vitality and happiness of the inhabitants of Shangri-La is due to the application of their philosophy. Note that they do not have laws; instead they have customs. A custom is a code of behavior that originates from the “bottom up” — from the people — while a law originates from the “top down” — from rulers or government. A custom is observed; a law must be enforced: a custom assumes adult behavior, while a law presupposes criminal behavior.
~ Excerpt from The Avatars of Eden
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