The way gives them life;
Virtue [Inner Power (de)] rears them;
Things give them shape;
Circumstances bring them to maturity.
Therefore the myriad creatures all revere the way and honour virtue. Yet the way is revered and virtue honoured not because this is decreed by any authority but because it is natural for them to be treated so.
Thus the way gives them life and rears them;
Brings them up and nurses them;
Brings them to fruition and maturity;
Feeds and shelters them.
It gives them life yet claims no possession;
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
It is the steward yet exercises no authority.
Such is called the mysterious virtue [or “mysterious power”].
[D.C. Lau (translator), Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, 112]
Sociopolitical Solution #1
Zhuangzi’s “Just Say No!” Perspective
Yao wanted to cede the empire to Hsü Yu. “When the sun and moon have already come out,” he said, “it’s a waste of light to go on burning the torches, isn’t it? When the seasonal rains are falling, it’s a waste of water to go on irrigating the fields. If you took the throne, the world would be well ordered. I go on occupying it, but all I can see are my failings. I beg to turn over the world to you.” Hsü Yu said, “You govern the world and the world is already well governed. Now if I take your place, will I be doing it for a name? But name is only the guest of reality — will I be doing it so I can play the part of a guest? When the tailorbird builds her nest in the deep wood, she uses no more than one branch. When the mole drinks at the river, he takes no more than a bellyful. Go home and forget the matter, my lord. I have no use for the rulership of the world!
Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, 26-7]
The “Primitivist” Perspective
Do not exalt the worthy,
and the people will not compete.
Do not value goods that are hard to come by,
and the people will not steal.
Do not display objects of desire,
and the people’s minds will not be disturbed.
Therefore the ordering of the sage empties their minds,
fills their bellies,
weakens their ambitions,
strengthens their bones.
He always causes the people to be
without knowledge, without desire,
And causes the wise ones [i.e. “those who know”]
not to dare to act.
He does nothing (wuwei),
and there is nothing that is not brought to order.
[Sources of Chinese Tradition, 80-81]