Lao-Tzu and Some Advice for the Anarchists

by John A. Van Hulzum
From Number 68 – June 1994

On and off campus there are people who call themselves anarchists. Just for fun I bought a book about anarchy, only to see how that subject would be treated.

The book consists of 18 short essays, written by 17 different individuals.

Not a single one looked at anarchy the same way, which should not be surprising at all, testifying to an anarchy of thought. Almost all of them were anti-government.

I was very interested because my favorite philosopher can only be looked at as an anarchist in the true sense of the word.

Anarchy originally only meant “leaderless”, nothing more and nothing less. Long before Christ lived, Lao-Tzu said:

“If one man leads, another must follow,
How silly that is, and how false.”

Nobody can be born anarchist because every baby depends upon parents or others for clothing and shelter.

You can only be an anarchist after you have grown up. Lao-Tzu never said a word about being anti-government, but he said a lot about growing up.

Unless one is grown up enough one cannot be without authority and the old sage made that quite clear.

He already had what we call a democracy in mind, but he also knew that a democracy of ignorant people would not be an ideal form of government.

He therefore did not concentrate very heavily on the technical details of an “ideal” government but tried to describe the best way for the components of a democracy – individuals – to be worthy of anarchy or self-rule.

This thought of his was expressed as,

“Democracy grows at one’s own doorstep.”

I did not find a single one of those 17 so-called learned individuals who referred to Lao-Tzu, the one who “wrote the book” on anarchy.
(Editor’s Note: The book referred to is edited by Mike Gunderloy and Michael Ziesing, Anarchy and the End of History, (1991) and contains an article on The Fundamentals of Voluntaryism by Carl Watner.)

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