Comments on Chapter 3 of the Tao Te Ching

Comments on Chapter 3 of the Tao Te Ching

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I generally agree with and like reading Tao stuff mostly but this Chapter (3) from the Tao Te Ching I don't agree with.

N.B.: Of course I may have misinterpreted it. I'm a human being.

Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves; not to prize articles which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming thieves; not to show them what is likely to excite their desires is the way to keep their minds from disorder.

Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones.

He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without desire, and where there are those who have knowledge, to keep them from presuming to act (on it). When there is this abstinence from action, good order is universal.

by Laozi, translated by James Legge: source

If you don't value those those that are more skilled, (i.e. pay higher salaries for people that are more efficient and give more back to society) then you will remove the profit motivation which, I agree, is not to be the ultimate aim in life but can anyone consider him/herself so wise so as to declare what is good or not for somebody else?

To give one (salary, money) what one gives back to society (good work, efficient work) is only fair in my view.

Does it not break the balance of the universe to give more (or less) to someone than he/she has given back to society by way of working?

If enlightenment is supposed to be an individual undertaking, then how could a governor bypass that process and decide what his people should or should not read/know?

I don't think this is good at all, this recommendation that's given to politicians.

Is it not somewhat contradictory that one is advised to remove the so-called temptations from sight of the average man lest he gets greedy? Can you expect someone to be fully enlightened if you just remove some aspects from their life (sex, worldly possessions, etc) as opposed to letting that someone fully acknowledge their existence and conquer them?

I think this only leads us into the rule of mediocrity which is what I see in the country I live in nowadays. The only way I can fathom that a ruler can get away with that is through very extensive population control, i.e. a totalitarian state.

I don't like this talk of forcing anything onto your people at all.

Unless I have misinterpreted it, I think this might be some sort of mistranslation from the Chinese original, since, from my point of view, it conflicts with other texts I've read on Taoism/Zen, which mostly encourage personal effort and concentration in order to attain Understanding and don't usually describe what you should do with respect to other people, apart from respecting them.

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