Saturday, September 26, 2009

Verse 72: Restrictions

Verse Seventy-Two
When people no longer fear force
They bring about greater force

Do not limit their place
Do not reject their livelihood
Because the ruler does not reject them
Therefore they do not reject the ruler

Therefore the sages:
Know themselves but do not glorify themselves
Respect themselves but do not praise themselves
Thus they discard that and take this

~ Derek Lin translation ~
The observation has been made by many that, if we wanted to aligned Taoist philosophy with a political philosophy, we would end up with a form of libertarianism. Carl Abbott of Center Tao writes,
The political right seeks to control our personal behavior while the political left wants to control economic behavior. The libertarian ideal seems to reflect this Taoist view of not pressing down on either. Alas, we are too insecure to trust ourselves enough with such freedom.
As a socialist, you might think I would disagree with this assessment. However, you would be wrong. If the basic ethos of our society was more Taoist-based, I would probably consider myself a libertarian. The prime reason I favor leftist political ideals in the here and now is borne by the fact that our society is NOT Taoist-based in the least and so I believe the underdog needs to be protected from the leviathan of the powerful.

Our world is one in which SELF-interest is considered the prime virtue. Whatever brings each individual the greatest profit, power and enjoyment is deemed the goal of each life. The most ruthless and aggressive amongst the community are able to scratch and claw their way to the top, casting aside the needs and dreams of anyone who might get in their way. Once on top, they become divorced from the lives of the rabble and exert tremendous force upon the community itself.

It is this utter lack of community-interest that necessitates the need for restrictions. Under a libertarian system, there are few, if any, controls placed on people in their individual lives. While it sounds worthwhile, in principle, it means that the already powerful would be granted a green light to amass as much control and power as they can snatch up.

Some might say that resembles the system in place right now! What differs is that government still exerts a modicum of control -- through rather weak laws and regulations -- to limit the amount of power obtained by any one individual or group. It is this rather weak power of restriction that angers the Glen Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world.

In my mind's eye, the only way in which libertarianism would be practical is if the me-first mentality was replaced with an us-first mentality and the "us" would be inclusive of everything. As has been noted in this series again and again, it is the view of separation -- each of us as an island unto ourselves -- that causes so much of our individual and collective problems.

It is only when my needs are synonymous with your needs and your needs are synonymous with your neighbor's needs that a libertarian system would serve society well.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.


  1. This is almost exactly what I was trying to explain to a friend the other day, the replacing of a me-first with us-altogether mentality; for people to see harming another as hurting themselves.
    What do you think of anarchic communities?

  2. ha! this is exactly the reason why i think socialism wouldn't work. :P governments are simply individuals given great power to rule. it's sad that when a government official is elected, he/she promises the people that they will be heard and yet does nothing but raise his/her own salary. i don't think big government works, either, unless you trust your rulers to take care of you. which, i don't.

    there are few governments that actually work as intended, however i've always liked the "tribal council" form of making decisions. (such as the native people in most countries had). the reason i think this works is because a fairly small group of people is represented, and the council or "elders" were subject to the people, not in a position of authority over them. government is supposed to temper the people, while the people temper the government. the problem is creating a situation in which that is possible!


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