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« Taoist Art | Main | Against Supreme Court Litmus Tests »

July 06, 2005


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I've sometimes wondered whether a Taoist sage would be able to fit into a modern political context considering that so much of our global society is organized around precisely what Lao Tzu rails against in the Tao Te Ching. Have we gotten to the point where it is impossible to turn back to the Way without prompting massive chaos? In other words, would an attempted correction in the direction of the Way result in further deviations from the Way? I'm thinking here of globalization, the Internet, international trade, social welfare services, forward-deployed military forces, and all the kinds of interventive policies and interconnections that define our world.

This leads to another question: suppose that one country were to embrace the Way. What is to prevent other countries from taking advantage of it, plundering its natural resources, threatening its security, etc.? Maybe I'm misunderstanding what it means for a state to embrace the Way, but is Lao Tzu simply a utopian at this point in history or do you think that his philosophy can still be applied to international politics?

I suspect your are right: a state could not really "embrace Way." Perhaps only a person can do so, and, even then, only in certain facets of his or her life.

"Taoism embraces a small government ideology similar to mainstream American conservative thought."

But Bush isn't mainstream conservative, he's a neoconservative. He has done nothing to reduce the role of government. Instead, he has systematically increased the role of the national government over smaller state and local governments. He has shifted non-terrorist crime fighting to the federal level through expanding the FBI's role, imposing minimum sentencing laws, blacklisting judges for not conforming to federal standards, etc. He has allowed a huge increase in pork barrel spending to give federal funding to local projects, and he has expanded domestic spying. As you say, he has war mongered and authorized torture. How is this taoist again?

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