If you want to be a great leader,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.
The more prohibitions you have,
the less virtuous people will be.
The more weapons you have,
the less secure people will be.
The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be.
Therefore the Master says:
I let go of the law,
and people become honest.
I let go of economics,
and people become prosperous.
I let go of religion,
and people become serene.
I let go of all desire for the common good,
and the good becomes common as grass.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 57, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Some Unsolicited Advice
As much as I didn’t like yesterday’s chapter-to that extent-I love today’s chapter. Today, we get back to what attracted me to philosophical Taoism in the first place, as we begin a series of chapters on the art of governing. And, the timing couldn’t be better, with the US presidential election over with, and a new president-elect. Plenty of others have been offering unsolicited advice and criticism. I might as well take this opportunity to join the chorus.
So, President-elect Trump, allow me to introduce myself. I am just an ordinary guy, living in one of those perpetually red states-but I didn’t vote for you. Now, don’t take my lack of support to be anything more than what it was. Given the choice between you and the other establishment candidate, I actually saw you as the lesser evil. I just didn’t feel any compulsion to choose between two evils. Granted, going into election day, I knew how my state was going to vote, with or without my consent, so you hardly needed any additional help from me. And, the person I did vote for (yeah, I admit it, I did vote), only garnered 3.1 percent of the vote in my state; so, it was only a symbolic token bit of resistance.
This might be a good time to talk about the electoral college. Your major opponent’s supporters are not exactly happy with it, right now. And, I suspect, if the outcome had been reversed, you and your supporters would be the ones complaining about it. But, I just want to say I am a supporter of the electoral college. And, I would be, regardless of the outcome. We are not a democracy. Popular vote doesn’t elect presidents. That is by design; and is, as it should be. We are, after all, the United States; and, our founding fathers did get a few things right. One of these things was their emphasis on division of power between the individual states and the federal government, also known as federalism. And, to be quite honest, I am actually feeling quite thankful, as Thanksgiving Day is just a couple days away, we are not a democracy. The greater evil did not win.
And, being as I am being completely honest with you, I will confirm that I knew, going into election day, I wasn’t going to be happy with the results. It was kind of a given that one of the evils would be elected. And, congrats to you, you won.
So, anyway, maybe I should get right down to the purpose of my blathering on. I happen to have this daily blog, libertariantaoist.com; where I post a chapter each day of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu, I don’t know whether you are familiar with him, was the father of philosophical Taoism. Anyway, I post the daily chapter, and offer my own commentary, usually making it relevant to the times in which we are living. Hence, here I am writing to you.
Today’s chapter got me thinking of you. I was thinking, as I was reading, of what advice I would give you, if I actually had your attention.
You talked a lot about greatness during your campaign. So, maybe Lao Tzu’s words about what it takes to be a great leader has your attention. And, if you would be so inclined, come back tomorrow and the next day-well, just keep coming back-Lao Tzu has a lot of sage advice on the art of governing. There is a lot of help to be had, if you are willing to be humble, and learn.
Take today’s chapter, for instance, where Lao Tzu encourages you to learn to follow the Tao. What does he mean by that? I understand that the Tao may be an unfamiliar term to you. Please allow me to help. Tao is simply the name Lao Tzu gives for the way things are, the principle that governs our universe. And, when Lao Tzu tells would-be “great” leaders to learn to follow the Tao, he is meaning to stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts. Even the ones you may hold very dear. Because, quite honestly, your assistance isn’t much needed. I know, I know, that may be quite a blow to your ego. I get it. It was a blow to mine, as well, when I first heard of it.
But, seriously, the world is fully capable of governing itself. That is really the message of philosophical Taoism. Therefore, we shouldn’t interfere, intervene, try to control, dominate, or force things. We need to let things go their own, natural, way. What I said, earlier, about the need to be humble is very important. The will to power is antagonistic to the Tao. But, through the constant practice of humility, you won’t fall prey to it.
Look, I know you want to accomplish great things. I am just taking you at your word. But, what Lao Tzu has to say is some pretty sage advice. I hope you will follow it. The more prohibitions you decree, the less virtuous people will be, the more weapons you amass, the less secure people will be, the more subsidies you hand out, the less self-reliant people will be.
Follow the example of the Master at the art of governing, one who let go of the law, and people became honest; one who let go of economics, and people became prosperous; one who let go of religion, and people became serene; one who let go of all desire for the common good, and the good became as common as grass.
I am going to continue to be honest with you, because I am an honest guy. I don’t have any expectations after your election. I have neither hopes, nor fears. They are really only phantoms, anyway. You know that, right? I do think you would do well to follow Lao Tzu’s advice on the art of governing. But, I don’t have any expectations that you will. So, I also won’t be disappointed, whether you do, or you don’t. Still, I would very much like you to. And, because I don’t have any expectations that you would ever solicit my advice (no disappointments, here, either), if you don’t mind, and even if you do, I will continue to offer you unsolicited advice, and criticism, right here on my blog as opportunity presents itself. Thank you for reading, and have a “great” day.