yǐ xíng qù xíng 以刑去刑
Abolishing Punishment with Punishment
Abolishing punishment with punishment is a concrete manifestation of the Legalist school’s “rule of law.” Seemingly the same as the Confucian notion that punishment is meted out for the purpose of eliminating punishment, it is in fact quite different. Confucians esteemed rites, wanting to get rid of punishments by means of virtue, while Legalists valued punishments, applying severe penalties to inflict fear in the hearts of the common people so that they would not dare commit crimes. Thus there would be no need for punishment. From the point of view of achieving the ideal of “great order under heaven,” Legalist “abolition of punishment” is very close to Confucian “elimination of punishment” but lacks the human concern of Confucianism.
In applying punishments, if severe ones are used for minor crimes, minor crimes will not occur, and serious crimes even less so. This is called abolishing punishment with punishment. When punishments are gone, state governance will be successful. (The Book of Lord Shang)