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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11304/libertarianism-in-ancient-china/

Libertarianism in Ancient China

December 23, 2009 by

To the individualist Lao Tzu, government, with its “laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox,” was a vicious oppressor of the individual, and “more to be feared than fierce tigers. FULL ARTICLE by Murray N. Rothbard


Reality December 23, 2009 at 9:09 am

What I deduce from this more than 2000 years old philosophy is that mankind has not change in eons upon eons.

What makes libertarians think that mankind can change now ?

In a couple thousand years, we will read Mises and Rothbard’s writings in the same manner we read Lao Tzu’s writings.

Libertarianism is nothing new, it is not Rand’s nor Mises invention, and if Lao Tzu is talking about it, it must certainly be because people before him thought about it too.

Libertarianism has always been a passive observer and always will. That’s what those ancient writings teach us.

The fact that those writings are ancient and that we live in oppressive, tyrannical times teaches us that Libertarianism was always a fake dream.

EIS December 23, 2009 at 9:10 am

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.

Lao Tsu

Reality December 23, 2009 at 9:14 am

However, CYBERTARIANISM, by giving us a virtual speaker which can speak in the name of freedom and justice, could make libertarianism come true.

Libertarianism, if it is ever to succeed, must stop being an obscure fringe philosophy and become SOMEONE or SOMEBODY which can speak to the masses and represent hope, progress, prosperity, peace and freedom.

Therefore, I think that libertarianism will only become true through cybertarianism, were we use artificial intelligence to create an entity which speaks in the name of freedom and justice.

An entity accessible anywhere from your iphone, tv, computer etc. and which can provide medical advice, legal advice, help with your homework, settle disputes etc.

Why authoritarianism works and libertarianism doesn’t it’s because authoritarianism is somebody.

People voted for Obama, they did not vote for Democrats.

If libertarianism can become somebody or better yet a very ressourceful virtual somebody, then it would always win.

Tao Hua Yuan December 23, 2009 at 9:40 am

Never did I know that Murray had such profound understanding of Chinese philosophies. Even though I disagree with some of the minor points in the article, I am impressed with his insights.

I read Lao Tsu and Chuang Tsu regularly. They never strike me as libertarians. Taoism is commonly held as a passive philosophy. Chinese intellectuals first strive to be Confucians: they want to be appointed as a high rank official in a state so that they could become a benefactor to the common people and a good servant to the emperor. They embrace Taoism only when they encounter setbacks and when they seek comfort and vent frustrations.

If I liken Chinese philosophies to a meal, then Confucius is the main course, Legalism is the liquor and Taoism is the cure of hangover.

Artisan December 23, 2009 at 9:43 am

Lao Tzu is hard to understand sometimes…
And to many his I Ging is considered an oracle.

Some more copy & paste to illustrate my point:

17. Rulers
The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
The next best are loved and praised;
The next are feared;
The next despised:
They have no faith in their people,
And their people become unfaithful to them.

When the best rulers achieve their purpose
Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.
[Chinese text]|[Go To Top]

18. Hypocrisy
When the Way is forgotten
Duty and justice appear;
Then knowledge and wisdom are born
Along with hypocrisy.

When harmonious relationships dissolve
Then respect and devotion arise;
When a nation falls to chaos
Then loyalty and patriotism are born.

Tao Hua Yuan December 23, 2009 at 10:15 am

To Artisan,

I Ging was not Lao Tsu’s work. The author was Confucius.

Tao Hua Yuan December 23, 2009 at 10:16 am

To Artisan,

I Ging was not Lao Tsu’s work. The author was Confucius.

C December 23, 2009 at 12:14 pm

@ Artisan and Tao Hua Yuan:

You are both partially correct.

The quoted verse comes from the Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way, by Lao Tsu, not the I Ching, or Book of Changes, on which Confucius wrote the Ten Commentaries (Shi Yi, “Ten Wings”), but did not write the original hexagrams.



Andrew December 23, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Great article. I often noted parallels between Lao Tzu and libertarianism regarding the laissez-faire aspects of the two philosophies. Very nice to read an article that I can forward onto others as a beginning point of conversation. Thanks.

jeffrey December 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Professor Long provides a different look at Confucianism. http://mises.org/journals/jls/17_3/17_3_3.pdf

“It is true that Taoist writings often contain magnificent insights into the effectiveness of
spontaneous order and the evils of coercion and governmental control, and it is likewise true that the Confucians can all too often be preachy, hidebound, starchy apologists for an authoritarian status quo. If that were the whole story, the Taoists would have to win hands down. But it is not the whole story, and once the whole story is on the table, it will become clear that, from a libertarian perspective, the Taoists have been overrated and the Confucians nderrated.”

Jonathan Finegold Catalán December 23, 2009 at 1:04 pm

I am currently reading the first volume of this set, and I am in love with this book. In any case, the section on libertarian thought in Ancient China reminded me of my Political Science 250 class (“Our Global Future”), where the professor believed that there should be a shift towards “Buddhist economics”. Although there was a lot of “anti-market” rhetoric, for the most part it was all very close to the Austrian message (the actual economic theory was not as well established, but one could interpret the basics to be similar).

Brandon December 23, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Hot damn! Rothbard does it again! Its interesting to see just how little cultural differences matter when human action is analyzed and broken down into the raw basics…Thanks Mises Institute!

Lin February 3, 2010 at 7:11 pm

To Artisan & Tao Hua Yuan,

The I Ching was not written by Confucius or Lao-tzu. It’s origins are murky but is traditionally believed to come from ancient Chinese divination practices dating from the 3rd millennium BC.

Joe November 2, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Ssu-ma Chie’n (135 BC–86 BC), the greatest Chinese historian. Ssu-ma is his last name. I am not sure if referred him by first name is a conventional way. OrRothbard just did not know that, which is quite all right. Just try to make thing clearer.

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