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  • William H. Douglas

The Ancient Chinese Idea Of TRUE Anarchism

There is an assumption in Western nations that liberty and limited government are “Western ideas,” that don’t appear in African or Asian societies. On the surface this thought process makes sense. After all, in Europe the ideas of liberty, freedom, and limited government (or no government altogether) all directly emerged out of Christianity. The assumption then is that liberty is intrinsically connected to Christianity and cannot emerge without it. Since neither Asia nor Africa are majority Christian continents, the argument therefore goes, they could not develop ideas of Christianity and such ideas had to be imported into their nations. It was these beliefs that justified European colonialism as the work to “civilize the savage” – that is to Europeanize and Christianize Africa and Asia.

In ancient China, Taoism and Lao Tzu’s ideas were focused on liberty in many regards of life. From Chapter 57 of the Tao Te Ching:

“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.”

What makes a good leader? One who follows the Tao. How do great leaders follow the Tao? By abandoning all centralized planning, by refusing to try and control others. In other words, great leaders give up the State. Great leaders abandon all pretense of what most people would even consider a pretense of government by refusing to try to control other by making laws. After all, is the law not merely the process by which the government tries to control society by rewarding those who obey its commands and punishing those who do not? And what is the outcome of completely abandoning the government made and controlled legal system? Chaos? The world governs itself. The result of the loss of the government is not disorder. Instead true order, spontaneous order, order emerging not out of the violent hand of those in power but order that emerges naturally as people seek to fulfill their wants and needs.

Chapters 30 and 31 of the Tao Te Ching record Lao Tzu’s insights into both domestic leadership and war. Lao Tzu clearly understand war and conflict as evil. He taught that the objective of every decent man is peace, that weapons are tools of fear and therefore every decent person detests them. War was not the answer because violence only breeds more violence. The use of violence against others returns to you as your violence turns others into your enemies who seek to harm you for harming them, their loved ones, and/or their property. If battle happens then victory is not to be rejoiced in. Rather it is to be mourned like a funeral because our enemies aren’t monsters, they’re people and not through the slaughter of war they have been lost to the world. Standing armies cause problems and suffering wherever they exist, a danger to everyone and everything around them. A good leader is in harmony with the Tao, meaning he doesn’t try and dominate events or rule through compulsion and force.

Over 2,500 years ago Lao Tzu already knew the danger of government welfare subsidies. Simply put, when you give people money for doing something then you give them a reason to continue to do that thing. Give people money not to work and they won’t work. Give people money to not get married and they won’t get married. Give money to people in poverty and they will stay poor. Give money to people to have children out of wedlock and they will have more children out of wedlock. Give money to people to be disabled and more people will be disabled. People will do what you may them to do. This is the moral hazard of the government, problems are either created or exacerbated by the government programs supposedly designed to lessen them. But it does make them vote for you. After all, who is likely to get the most stuff – the person promising to give you more stuff or the one vowing to take stuff from you? Here Lao Tzu understood the truth of politics, especially government politics, thousands of years before anyone today – government subsidies create dependency on those in power, which is what they want. A dependent people will not even conceive of rebellion. From Chapter 75:

The reason people are hungry is that those above levy so many taxes, this is why they are hungry. The reason people are hard to rule is that those above are so forceful, this is why they are hard to rule. The reason people think little of death, is that those above think so much of life, this is why they think little of death. Meanwhile those who do nothing to live are more esteemed than those who love life.”

Lao Tzu understood that taxes create or worsen poverty and the higher taxes create more poverty. The most obvious way is the fact that taxes take money out of the pockets of people, forcing them to purchase everything they need with even less money than they normally would have. The end result of this is that they can only buy less of what they need to survive and what they want to thrive. But the damage goes even deeper than this obvious result. Taxation is tied directly to employment, with raises in payroll taxes increase unemployment. This means that taxes make it harder for the poor to find work, trapping them in poverty, and harming them and generations of their descendants. Likewise, sales taxes have been linked to hunger and food insecurity. The higher the taxes, the less food you have to eat. This same logic applies to everything else you buy. A poor person spending more money on food cannot buy the new clothes she wanted, afford higher payments for a better car, or purchase the afford the games she wanted for her family. Taxes forcibly lower the standard of living for the middle classes and poor, making their lives nastier, meaner, and shorter.

In the name of securing the “general welfare” a system of control is organized that uses blunt force violence to control the populace through outright force and terror. The levers of power, always exercised by the social and aristocratical elites, are used to secure and increase the wealth and power of those elites through “legalized” theft and extortion (taxes and fines). In order to ensure their power and wealth extract is maintained the elites in power use their stolen money to hire domestic military and foreign military forces (the police and the armed forces) to force people at home and abroad to comply with the dictates of those in power or suffer. This is why over a thousand people are killed by police every year, why over 250,000 are injured by police every year, and why over 72% of all people in prison are imprisoned for nonviolent “crimes.” That is why the State has given its policing agents -the police, the cops- near carte blanche to do as they please and face little to no legal consequences. The State can be summed up simply: “Comply or Die.“


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