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If the people are barely aware that the government exists,
they are happy.
When the government is felt to be oppressive,
they are broken.
Good fortune, alas! builds itself upon misery.
Good fortune, alas! is the mask of misery.
What will come of this? We cannot foresee the end.
Order is upset and turns to disorder, good becomes evil.
The people are confused.
Is it not so, day in, day out, from the beginning?
The wise man is therefore angular, though he does not injure others;
he has sharp corners, though he does not harm;
he is upright but not gruff.
He is clearminded, but he does not try to be brilliant.
–Laozi (??), Daodejing (???) (4th century BCE)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”