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 as common as grass.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 57, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
We have been wading through some of the more mystical elements of philosophical Taoism. Every time I cycle through the chapters I feel like I venture deeper and deeper into these mysterious waters. Hopefully, I am not just understanding them better; hopefully, I am doing a better job of conveying the mind of Lao Tzu. But I will admit, it is when we get to chapters like today’s that I feel like I am once again standing on firm and solid ground; where I can say, this isn’t just what Lao Tzu is saying, this is what I am saying. This is why I am libertariantaoist. This is what I believe.
In fact, if I was going to describe this chapter in three words, it would be “This Is Anarchism.” Anarchism is not a word with which a lot of my potential readers are even familiar. Most people have heard of the word anarchy before. And that word and those who practice it, anarchists, have all sorts of negative connotations. Anarchy = chaos. That is the stereotypical definition provided to us by the powers that be in our world of illusion. My family and friends find me a bit strange because I am a self-described anarchist. Their understanding of anarchy was provided to them through the indoctrination of the State. And based on that indoctrination, I should be throwing Molotov cocktails on my weekends.
But anyone that knows me, knows that I don’t fit that stereotype. So what gives? Someone is obviously confused. Am I confused? I can’t really be an anarchist. I don’t fit the stereotype. I would like to suggest that it is in your indoctrination that the error is to be found. Let’s take a look at today’s chapter for a better understanding of what Lao Tzu is trying to teach those who want to be great leaders.
First off, I really want to dispense with the word anarchy. This is not going to be a defense of anarchy. Anarchy equals chaos in too many minds. That notion is so entrenched, I don’t hope to change any minds. No, I want to talk about a completely different word, anarchism. Because that word, I hope, is one that can be used as a counterpoint to anarchy. This is how it is done. I am not talking about anarchy. Gosh, I am just as scared of anarchy as you are. What I am talking about is anarchism. Your concept of anarchy and the reality of anarchism are two very different things. See, that wasn’t hard at all.
And now to the chapter. Lao Tzu presents the world of illusion, in today’s chapter, for all to see. In the world of illusion we have rulers who must be in control. They have fixed plans and concepts which they use to try to manipulate and control. Let’s take a look at the results.
Because of the increasing number of prohibitions, the people are become less virtuous. Because of the increasing number of weapons, the people are become less secure. Because of the increasing number of subsidies, the people are become less self-reliant.
This is the world of illusion in which we find ourselves. I call it the world of illusion because it only masquerades as reality. Oh, it seems very real. It is the world that we find as we explore with our senses. But, there is also an eternal reality, the way things really are, that is hidden to our senses. But can be revealed to us, if we will only look inside ourselves, to find it. This is the real world in the real Universe. In this world, we don’t have rulers trying to control us with their fixed plans and concepts.
In the real world, you learn to follow the Tao. And, Lao Tzu says, if you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao. This isn’t a place for rulers. What, no rulers? Yes, this is anarchism. Once again, not to be confused with anarchy. This isn’t a world of chaos. This is a world of order. Spontaneous order. Anarchism = order.
One of the things that anyone that learns to follow the Tao finds is that the more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. To people that have been indoctrinated by the State,, in our world of illusion, this sounds very strange indeed. In the world of illusion, people are led by the State to believe that people are made virtuous by their rulers imposing virtue on them. That is the stated goal of the increasing prohibitions. People are not virtuous enough? We’ll just increase the prohibitions. Of course, this is all an illusion. The real reason for the increased prohibitions is control. The rulers don’t care about virtue. They care about control.
But back in the real world, where people are following the Tao, and great leaders are born and bred, there is only one rule. What? Only one rule? Yes, this is anarchism. There is only one rule. The Golden Rule. Treat people like you want to be treated. As long as you aren’t aggressing against anyone else’s rights, you can do whatever you want. People can do whatever they want? Yes, as long as they aren’t aggressing against anyone else’s rights to do the same. It is anarchism. And the people become more and more virtuous, the more they learn to follow the Tao.
Another thing that anyone that learns to follow the Tao finds is that the more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. Once again, to people that have been indoctrinated by the State, in our world of illusion, this seems like crazy talk. In the world of illusion, people are led by the State to believe that while people that live in other countries, and look and talk differently than us, are definitely our enemies; by enabling the State to amass more and more weapons to “defend” us from these foreign threats to our “sovereignty” we will end up, some day, feeling secure. And, as if these foreign threats are not enough, they are now scaring us with the specter of domestic threats.
Back in the real world, we recognize the illusion for the lie it is. People are people wherever they live. Those people in foreign countries are not enemies, but fellow humans. And those weapons are not to protect us, they are to protect the ruling caste. By fomenting war we are not more, only less secure.
Another thing that anyone that learns to follow the Tao finds is that the more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be. When you have been following the Tao for awhile, it becomes self-evident that this is the case. Subsidies breed dependence. And regardless of the political rhetoric that would have us believe that it is because our benevolent rulers care that they offer these crumbs, the reality is that our rulers are not benevolent at all. They know exactly what they are dong. They don’t want us self-reliant. Self-reliant people are not easily manipulated. We can’t be controlled. And this is true, whether you are talking about welfare to individuals or corporations. Whole industries have become dependent on the public dole for their economic survival. Which means they are well under control by the ruling caste.
The world of illusion is the truly scary place. This is where chaos truly reigns. If you want order, you will need to look for it deep inside yourself. You won’t find it in the world of illusion. Rulers in the world of illusion won’t stop trying to control. It is the only way they have of maintaining their power. Their fixed plans and concepts are all they have to work with. They could never let go of them.
But, in the world of illusion, those who have been indoctrinated by the State believe what the Rulers want them to believe. We can’t let go of the law. We can’t let go of economics. We can’t let go of religion. We must increase our desire for the common good. Anything less than this would be chaos.
Back in the real world, it is just these fixed plans and concepts, the Master has let go of, along with the need to control. The Master has let go of the law, and people become honest. The Master has let go of economics, and people become prosperous. The Master has let go of religion, and people become serene. Finally, the Master has let go of all desire for the common good. And the good becomes as common as grass. This isn’t chaos. This is spontaneous order. This is anarchism.