• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Lao Tzu (C. 600 B.C.)

Lao Tzu (the “Old Philosopher”) is thought to have been an older contemporary of Confucius and arguably the first libertarian. In the Tao Te Ching (“The Classic of the Way and Its Virtue”), Lao Tzu discusses the relations among the individual, the state, and nature. Like 18th-century liberals, he argued that minimizing the role of government and letting individuals develop spontaneously would best achieve social and economic harmony.

In 81 short chapters (less than 6,000 words), Lao Tzu sets out his vision of good government and a good life. At the center of his thoughts were the principle of wu-wei (nonaction or nonintervention) and the notion of spontaneous order. In chapter 57, he sums up the core of his liberal views:

The more restrictions and limitations there ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles