When taxes are too high, people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people’s benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 75, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I wasn’t the original Libertarian Taoist. That is why I keep it all in lower case, libertariantaoist. Just my small token of homage to the very first, the original, Lao Tzu. And today’s chapter certainly makes the case for Lao Tzu being the original libertarian, about as strongly as it can be made. I have been influenced by many great thinkers over the years; but once I found Lao Tzu’s teachings, I knew I had stumbled across the original source for what makes me tick.
Short and sweet, this chapter gives the prescription for how best to govern: “Act for the people’s benefit.” He could have stopped right there; except for one tiny problem. Without the next line, you don’t know how to act for the people’s benefit. And here it is, “Trust them; leave them alone.”
Without that line, the fools that want to govern us will think that they can fool enough people into believing that they can be of the most benefit to the people by raising taxes. Because they want to use that money, to, you know, benefit you.
But the problem, of course, is that the higher the taxes, the worse off people become.That is no problem for those who want to govern us, though. That, right there, is just an opportunity to promise more benefits to the people. And all it ever will cost is higher taxes.
And our rulers have grander schemes than just handing out benefits to the people. They really want to take care of us. And they manufacture real and imagined threats to our “freedom,” which require ever more intrusive government. As if the real and imagined threats from foreigners isn’t enough, they tell us that we have even more cause for concern from domestic threats. They have to keep an eye out and and ear open to everything we say and do; because you just never know what schemes your neighbor, who is minding their own business, might be plotting against the state.
And we wonder why people lose their spirit. That is certainly not how I agree to be governed. If the powers that be really wanted to act for my benefit, they would trust me; and leave me alone.