Part Four: TAO TODAY
th' commonwealth I would by contraries
Execute all things; for no kind of traffic
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil;
No occupation; all men idle, all;
And women too, but innocent and pure;
Yet he would be king on 't.
The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning.
All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour: treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine,
Would I not have; but nature should bring forth,
own kind, all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.
No marrying 'mong his subjects?
None, man! All idle-whores and knaves.
I would with such perfection govern, sir,
T' excel the golden age.
II, i, 147-168
Utopias always have a certain fascination, but seldom much prac-
tical use. How many of Lao Tzu's ideas, for example, would be useful
to twentieth-century Americans?
On the face of it, it is a silly question. We believe-or most of us
do-that it is good to be vigorous, progressive, and forward-looking.
Lao Tzu believes it is good to be weak and to look inwards and
backwards. We believe that what America needs. is dynamic, aggres-
sive leadership. He prefers leadership that is listless and passive. We
believe in keen competition. He believes in dull indifference. We be-
lieve in education. He considers it dangerous. We believe that a man
or a business or a nation can never stand still, that they must either go
forward or backward. He teaches that to stand still is the most
effective way of dealing with almost every problem and of finding
spiritual contentment. We want to be high. He wants to be low. The
Tao Te Ching
might-with apologies to Dr. Peale-be called
pOUler of Negative Thinking.
Lao Tzu is not the kind of thinker to
whom twentieth-century Americans would turn for advice.
Furthermore, it is likely that if Lao Tzu were here today and we
applied to him for advice on the problems facing us, he would answer
not a word. To tell others what to do would be most unsagemanlike.
And if-heaven knows how-we forced him to speak, he would prob-
ably tell us to "do nothing, leave great problems to solve themselves,
each of you attend to his own affairs."
this answer left us still unsatisfied and we managed to press
him further, asking that he tell us if not how to mend our troubles, at
least how they originate, I think he would begin as follows.
"America's greatest troubles come from the advertising business.
Do not smile. That business is harmful and dangerous-ohl very