Rise of Religion in China—and the Libertarian Connection

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“The Chinese are in the midst of a great awakening of religious belief. In cities, yuppies are turning to Christianity. Buddhism attracts the middle class, while Taoism has rebounded in small towns and the countryside. Islam is also on the rise, not only in troubled minority areas but also among tens of millions elsewhere in China.”

This New York Times Magazine article, “The Rise of the Tao,” by Ian Johnson, should be read in conjunction with Murray Rothbard’s articles, “The Ancient Chinese Libertarian Tradition” and “Libertarianism in Ancient China”:

Says Rothbard:

“The first libertarian intellectual [in the world] was Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism. Little is known about his life, but apparently he was a personal acquaintance of Confucius in the late sixth century BC…

“Unlike the notable apologist for the rule of philosopher-bureaucrats, however, Lao-tzu developed a radical libertarian creed. For Lao-tzu the individual and his happiness was the key unit and goal of society. If social institutions hampered the individual’s flowering and his happiness, then those institutions should be reduced or abolished altogether. To the individualist Lao-tzu, government, with its ‘laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox,’ was a vicious oppressor of the individual, and ‘more to be feared than fierce tigers.’”

Similarly, in the New York Times Magazine article, Taoist businessman/patron Zhu Tieyu says:

“Taoist culture is noncompetitive and nonhurting of other people. It teaches following the rules of nature.”

Indeed, that does sound very similar to the libertarian creed that we should defend our own natural rights but do nothing to infringe on the natural rights of others.

12:29 pm on November 7, 2010