image from here
Run the country by doing what’s expected.
Win the war by doing the unexpected.
Control the world by doing nothing.
How do I know that?
The more restrictions and prohibitions in the world,
the poorer people get.
The more experts the country has
the more of a mess it’s in.
The more ingenious the skillful are,
the more monstrous their inventions.
The louder the call for law and order, the more the thieves and con men multiply.
So a wise leader might say:
I practice inaction, and the people look after themselves.
I love to be quiet, and the people themselves find justice.
I don’t do business, and the people prosper on their own.
I don’t have wants, and the people themselves are uncut wood.
A strong political statement of the central idea of we wei, not doing, inaction.
My “monstrous” is literally “new.” New is strange, and strange is uncanny. New is bad. Lao Tzu is deeply and firmly against changing things, particularly in the name of progress. He would make an Iowas farmer look flighty. I don’t think he is exactly anti-intellectual, but he considers most uses of the intellect to be pernicious, and all plans for improving things to be disastrous. yet he’s not a pessimist. No pessimist would say that people are able to look after themselves, be just, and prosper on their own. No anarchist can be a pessimist.
Uncut wood — her likened to the human soul– the uncut, uncarved, unshaped, unpolished, native, natural stuff is better than anything that can be made out of it. Anything done to it deforms and lessens it. Its potentiality is infinite. its uses are trivial.