If you have enough sense, in following the Way,
the only fear is wandering off it.
The Way is smooth and straight,
but somehow, people prefer the mountain trails.

The court is swept clean,
but the fields are full of weeds,
and the granaries are empty.

Their costumes are fancy and colorful,
their weapons are deadly,
they glut themselves on food,
they have more things than they know what to do with.

This is called robbery,
and robbery is not the Way.

 


chapter notes:

This is another case where I have left political philosophy undisturbed. The chapter itself is a straightforward translation; it likens aristocrats to robbers, pointing out their common attributes.

The title may seem to lend a libertarian cast to the material, but that is not my exact intent. Libertarians like to think, because the state grew out of a bunch of predatory thugs, that this is its essential nature; therefore, minimizing the state is necessary to minimize its evil: “that state is best which governs least” has a plausible Daoist gloss to it.

However, this libertarian view requires a willful blindness to the services a state actually provides, or an unreasoning idolatry of the capabilities of the Market with which they intend to replace these functions.

If there is a difference between a government and a bunch of robbers, it is in the benefits it brings to its people. Thus, the extent that it rises above its predatory origins is the degree to which it can be judged a useful state.