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)
Today, we begin a series of chapters on the art of governing. In other words, we have reached the point in the Tao Te Ching, which first captured my interest. I was a libertarian before I became a philosophical Taoist. And, Lao Tzu’s instructions to would-be leaders resonated with me, right from the start.
You may not be aware of this, but we are in the midst of a presidential election season. This series of chapters will also give me an opportunity to do one of my favorite things, talk about politics. I hear some of you, already, “Isn’t he always talking politics, anyway? Does he really need another excuse? But, I really can’t help myself. It is something I am passionate about. You don’t really intend to deny me this opportunity?
With that said, I recently posted a Reason “Hit and Run” piece where Gary Johnson, one of the candidates for the Libertarian Party nomination, was being offered as someone that those Republicans who are disenchanted with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, might vote for. I voted for Gary Johnson in 2012. Yes, I was part of the 1% that voted for him. And, I like Gary. But, he does tend to go off on tangents a lot of the time, when he is being interviewed. You may well remember the Reason interview, on the day he announced his candidacy, and his infamous “I will ban burqas” comment. After a huge online uproar, he admitted that wanting to ban burqas wasn’t very libertarian of him, and he assured us, he wouldn’t put any restrictions on the personal clothing choices of anyone. In the most recent article, Gary once again went off on a tangent. Saying, if he wasn’t running for president, and the choice was between Hillary and Trump, he would probably support Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Most of my followers are well aware, Bloomberg is no friend of personal liberty. He instituted a ban, in New York City, on soft drinks he deemed too large for anyone’s consumption. While I do suspect that Gary was saying that Bloomberg’s anti-libertarian views pale in comparison with Hillary or Trump, I don’t necessarily agree, and it does raise further questions. Gary went on to say that while he wouldn’t want to pass legislation limiting the size of sodas, doing it on the municipal level isn’t such a bad thing. And, he loves Michelle Obama and her advocacy of calories and what it is we eat. He would take that to a higher level.
Really? What exactly do you mean, there, Gary? What higher level? And, is municipal legislation, limiting the size of sodas, really not so bad? I know we can “vote with our feet” by moving. But for some of us, moving from one town to another, or one state to another, isn’t as viable an option as you may think it is. As one of my mutuals on Tumblr “wageronliberty” messaged to me on the subject, “I don’t care if the SWAT team coming for my stash of double-stuffed Oreos is serving a municipal, state, or federal warrant when the SWAT team is kicking down my door at 4 in the morning.”
I had a good time on Reason’s Facebook page giving Johnson grief about his being a food nazi. And, I got some favorable responses. But, I also had those who thought I was nitpicking. Nitpicking? Me?
Gary Johnson has yet to respond to my comments.
I said all of that, to say this. Gary Johnson, and all you would-be leaders, here is what you really should do, if you want to be a great leader.
Learn how to follow the Tao. Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself. That is more than a libertarian prescription for how to govern. It is a libertariantaoist prescription for how to govern. Let the world govern itself. You might be surprised just how well it could get along without all your interference.
The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. Wageronliberty, and I, will only try to find ways to better hide our stash of contraband junk food from your SWAT teams.
Look, I get it, you have good intentions. You only want to help us to be better people. More healthy people. But, when you use force, when you try to control, you are running counter to the Tao. You end up achieving the opposite of your stated good intentions.
The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. This one isn’t directed at Gary Johnson who, I believe, wants to downsize our military. It is more directed at all the unfortunately more viable candidates. According to Trump, Obama has decimated our military capacity. But, Trump is going to make America’s military great again. And Hillary? She is such a neocon, she makes Trump seem like a pacifist, in comparison. But, even with all the weapons we have, and in spite of Trump’s rhetoric to the contrary, we already have the greatest military in the world. Are we anymore secure? On the contrary, the establishment has managed to convince a large segment of the U.S. population to be afraid, very afraid, of a terrorist attack, here, in the United States. What they will never admit is that each of us is a whole lot more likely to be killed by our own police, than we are terrorists.
The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be. This one I will direct more to Bernie Sanders. You keep making promises of all kinds of free shit. But there is no such thing as a free “anything” coming from government, Bernie. Those free college educations, and free health care, and every other free thing, comes at a great price. The government doesn’t produce money, it has to take it, or borrow it, or print it. All of these are high prices to pay. But, there is something even more insidious than any of that. You make people dependent, reliant, on your handouts. Less and less do they need to do for themselves. Soon, they can no longer do anything for themselves.
What we need from a would-be leader is someone who will be like the Master. Here are the kind of campaign slogans I want to hear, “I will let go of the law, and people will become honest.” I will let go of economics, and people will become prosperous.” I will let go of religion, and people will become serene.” I know that this might sound kind of scary at first, particularly if you don’t understand what Lao Tzu means, here.
What is he really saying? He is talking about no longer using force. That is what he means by letting go of. I want leaders who won’t interfere by making new, even more egregious, laws. I want leaders who won’t interfere with the economy. I want leaders who won’t tell people what religion they may and may not practice. I want leaders who will leave us alone.
I get that our would-be leaders claim to have a strong desire for the common good. But, if they will only let go of all that desire for the common good, the good would become common as grass.
How? Without anyone forcing it? Without anyone intervening and interfering? Because the world can govern itself. Learn how to follow the Tao, stop trying to control, and let go of all your fixed plans and concepts; you’ll see it is true.