Laozi on the Essence of Good Government | Harper's Magazine

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
[No Comment]

Laozi on the Essence of Good Government



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