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Short comparison between Lao Tzu and Henry David Thoreau | March 25, 2010

          “I heartily accept the motto-“That government is best which governs least.”” These are the words of Henry David Thoreau; which is the opening line to his essay “Civil Disobedience”. This is very similar to Lao Tzu’s philosophy of the Tao. In which Lao says “When the master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.” Thoreau takes direct influence from the Dao-Te Ching. Machiavelli is all about taking power and ruling with ruthlessness and fear. While Lao Tzu writes about freeing yourself from the material world; and the government is all about controlling material. Lao Tzu’s philosophy goes with centering yourself, and when you reach that point, you can self-govern without trying. Thoreau uses the same principle. That we should govern ourselves because our conscience is ours. And laws do not make our consciences better just because of restrictions. So government only gets in the way. States Thoreau “we should be men first and subjects afterwards.” He says this because citizens “resign their conscience to the legislator.” This is unfair to us; so governing powers must be as little as possible. Thoreau takes it one step further and wants no government at all. Lao Tzu is a very influential philosopher and it is shown in Thoreau’s work.

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