Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Politics and Politicians

“The Buddhist idea of a politician is not so much one of a con man or of a businessman who wins favor with everybody, but someone who simply does what is necessary… having a sense of responsibility to society.” Politicians in our internet, electronic age though have become increasingly more like actors and actresses, psychological manipulators carefully calculating what they do and say to produce more votes. In contrast, the neo-confucian approach Zhu Xi's popularized in the 12th century (and continues to influence today's world) chooses, promotes and demotes politicians based on how much they can put the good of the country above their personal gain.

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Quotes (132)

“As surely as bandits hate their chief so do the people of a country resent whatever is over them… (the wise) knowing that a kingdom cannot be mounted get under it; knowing that the people cannot be led he keeps behind them.”

Huangdi 國語 2698 – 2598 BCE
(The Yellow Emperor)
Taoist patron saint, founder of Chinese civilization
from Internal Book of Medicine

48. Unlearning

“We who are called royal speak for our people to the powers of the earth and sky as those powers transmit through us. We are go-betweens.”

Lavinia 12th C. BCE via Ursula Le Guin
Prophetess and co-foundrer of the Roman Empire
from Lavinia

“A righteous government is of all the most to be wished for […] To effect this I shall work now and ever more.”

Zarathushtra زرتشت‎‎ 628 – 551 BCE via Dinshaw Jamshedji Irani
(Zoroaster)

from Avesta

“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.”

Aesop 620 – 546 BCE
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

53. Shameless Thieves

“Only a leader not focused on personal gain, can wisely govern.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #75
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“The wise can easily be made into leaders but leaders not so easily made wise.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, chapter #28
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“A sovereign is to be called a sovereign only when he comports himself as a 'true' sovereign should.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"
from Analects

“It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war who an thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Lionel Giles and James Clavell
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.”

Pericles 495 – 429 BCE via Thucydides
Disprover that all power corrupts

“Those who turn inward and find that they are not true to themselves cannot govern the people well.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism
from Doctrine of the Mean, Maintaining Perfect Balance, Zhongyong 中庸

“Knowing how to cultivate oneself is to know how to govern others; knowing how to govern others is to know how to govern the empire, the state, and the family.”

Zisi 子思 481 – 402 BCE
(Kong Ji or Tzu-Ssu)
Confucius' grandson and early influence on Neo-Confucianism
from Doctrine of the Mean, Maintaining Perfect Balance, Zhongyong 中庸

“How are ye blind, ye treaders down of cities,
Ye that cast temples to desolation and lay waste tombs,
The untrodden sanctuaries where lie
The ancient dead; yourselves so soon to die.”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Will Durant, Shan Dao
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Trojan Women

“The despot lives night and day like one condemned to death by the whole of mankind for his wickedness.”

Xenophon of Athens Ξενοφῶν  (430–354 BCE) via Fighting Words (tr: Kathleen Freeman)
General, Socratic biographer, philosopher
from Hiero

“Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of the world have the spirit and power of philosophy, the human race will never see an end of trouble. Only when political greatness and wisdom meet will cities and nations rest from their evils and see the light of day.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE via Jowett, Shan Dao
from Republic Πολιτεία

“In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill... we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE
from Republic Πολιτεία

58. Goals Without Means

“Every dictator is an enemy of freedom, an opponent of law.”

Demosthenes Δημοσθένης 384 – 322 BCE

“'Politicians and generals who always want to extend their territories and fill their treasuries are called, 'Robbers of the People and should suffer the highest punishments.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Wing-Tsit Chan, Shan Dao
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

30. No War

“When the ruler view his ministers as his hands and feet, they regard him as their heart and soul. When he views them as dirt and weeds, they regard him as an enemy and a thief.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

17. True Leaders

“To give protection to the people is to be a true king.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“The reality of the Tao lies in concern for the self. Concern for the state is irrelevant, and concern for the world is cowshit. From this standpoint, the emperor’s work is the sage’s hobby and is not what develops the self or nourishes life.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

54. Planting Well

“Those who govern and follow the Tao are like the high branches in a tree; people don’t notice them and wander in freedom like deer in a forest. 3:14”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

17. True Leaders

“Those who govern others with worthiness never win them over. Those who serve others with worthiness never fail to gain their support.”

Lie Yukou 列圄寇/列禦寇/列子 4th C. BCE
(Liè Yǔkòu, Liezi)
from Liezi "True Classic of Simplicity and Perfect Emptiness”

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“In cooking a small fish, too much turning ruins it. In governing a great state, too much reform embitters the people. Thus a ruler who possesses the Way values inaction over reform.”

Hán Fēi 韓非 280 – 233 BCE

60. Less is More

“Sages… treat the people as if they were their children. Thus, the whole world wants them for their leaders. The people never grow tired of them because sages don’t struggle against them. Everyone struggles against something but no one struggles against those who don’t struggle against anything.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)

66. Go Low

“those who are capable of leading the world are those who have no ambition to use the world; those who are capable of sustaining fame are those who do nothing excessive to seek it.”

Liú Ān 劉安 c. 179–122 BCE via Thomas Cleary
(Huainanzi)
from Huainanzi

67. Three Treasures

“Politicians and generals who treat people like animals to be driven and sacrificed are the ultimate expression of man’s inhumanity to man.”

Yang Xiong 揚雄 53 BCE – 18 CE via Michael Nylan, Shan Dao
from Fayan 法言, Exemplary Figures or Model Sayings

“The end justifies the means.(literally 'The result justifies the deed.')”

Ovid oʊvɪd 43 BCE – 18 CE
(Publius Ovidius Naso)
Great poet and major influence on the Renaissance, Humanism, and world literature

from Heroides, 10 CE

“Does the tyrant say he will throw me into prison? He cannot imprison my spirit. Does he say that he will put me to death? He can only cut off my head.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE via Edith Hamilton

“Human beings betray their worst failings when they marvel to find that a world ruler is neither foolishly indolent, presumptuous, nor cruel.”

Hadrian 76 – 180 CE

“I am unable to wander from place to place as you do but if you could teach me how to meditate while remaining here on my throne in my palace...”

Lakshmincara ལཀྵྨཱིངྐ་རཱ།། c. 8th Century CE via Keith Dowman
(“The Princess of Crazy wisdom”)
from Masters of Mahamudra

17. True Leaders

“I weep to see you sitting on this throne, engaging in the wretched business of government.”

Kambala ཀམྦ་ལ་པ། 9th Century CE via Keith Dowman
("The Black-Blanket-Clad Yogin")
Mahasiddha #30
from Masters of Enchantment

18. The Sick Society

“The burden of government must be a punishment inflicted upon me by my karma.”

Indrabhūti ཨིནྡྲ་བྷཱུ་ཏི། 892 CE – via Keith Dowman
("The Enlightened Siddha-King")
Mahasiddha #42

“When someone uses laws to restrict the world, might to compel it, knowledge to silence it, and majesty to impress it, there are always those who don’t follow. When someone rules by means of the Tao, the world follows without thinking.”

Cao Daochong 道寵 fl. 960 - 1268
(​Daochong or Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung)
from Lao-tzu-chu, Red Pine Translation

54. Planting Well

“Bei Zhu was able to contest this case forcefully at court and did not pretend acquiescence. If every matter is handled this way, what cause will there be to worry about misgovernment?”

Sima Guang 司马光 1019 – 1086 CE via Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom

"Greatest of all Chinese historians”
from Book of History

“How sultan after sultan with all his pump abode his hour or two and quickly went away.”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE via Edward Fitzgerald, Shan dao
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

from Rubaiyat

“My king is the naturally radiant nature of being who defeats the hostile powers of duality—innate, spontaneously arising awareness.”

Jayānanda ཛ་ཡཱ་ནནྡ།། 11th - 12th century via Keith Dowman, Shan Dao
("Crow Master")
Mahasiddha #58

“Seek to win the hearts of your people and watch over their prosperity. It is to secure their happiness that you were appointed.”

Saladin صلاح الدين يوسف بن أيوب‎‎ 1137 – 1193 CE
(An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub)

“If you can take your nation as your husband and serve him very carefully, you will earn your reputation.”

Genghis Khan 1162 – 1227 CE via Jack Weatherford

“It is necessary to accept hard and inconvenient advice, to punish bad people with merciless law, to protect the numerous subjects with kindness, to strive after a good name that is honored everywhere.”

Genghis Khan 1162 – 1227 CE via Paul Kahn
from Secret History of the Mongols, Монголын нууц товчоо, 元朝秘史

“When sages become rulers, happiness reigns over the land.”

Sakya Pandita ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜ་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། 1182 – 1251 CE via John T. Davenport, Shan Dao #32
(Kunga Gyeltsen)
from Ordinary Wisdom, Sakya Legshe (Jewel Treasury of Good Advice)

“The wise are like others in that they are leaders in the world. They are unlike other in that they go beyond the world.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Herbert V. Guenther, Shan Dao
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"

“Although you may have fortresses, they will not save you if you are hated by the people.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

17. True Leaders

“A new prince, like David should exalt the humble and depress the great, ‘filling the hungry with good things, and sending the rich empty away.’”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from Discourses on Livy

77. Stringing a Bow

“Anyone who campaigns for public office becomes disqualified for holding any office at all.”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

“Those who cultivate this within themselves become sages, while those who practice this in the world become rulers.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

22. Heaven's Door

“It is a strange desire to seek a Power that loses our liberty, a power over others that makes us lose power over ourselves. Those in high positions lose their freedom and become slaves to the state, to fame, and to business.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE via Shan Dao
from Of Goodness and the Goodness of Nature

“He that is to govern a whole nation must read in himself, not this or that particular man; but mankind itself.”

Thomas Hobbes 1588 – 1679 CE via Nelle Fuller
from Leviathan

“The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“This [evil practice] is one of the worst habits of great officials, that if they are not recommending their teachers or their friends for high office then they recommend their relations.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝 1654 – 1722 CE via Jonathan D. Spence
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

Diderot 1713 – 1784 CE
from Encyclopédie

“In all our associations; in all our agreements let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim - that all power was originally lodged in, and consequently is derived from, the people.”

George Mason 1725 – 1792 CE
First American abolitionist, founding father, and Constitutional savior

“In politics a capable ruler must be guided by circumstances, conjectures and conjunctions.”

Catherine the Great Екатери́на Вели́кая 1729 – 1796 CE
(Catherine II)

“Although Pius had two sons, he preferred the welfare of Rome to the interest of his family, gave his daughter Faustina in marriage to young Marcus, and with a noble disdain or rather ignorance of jealousy, associated him to all the labors of government... Their united reigns are possibly the only period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government.”

Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794 CE
from Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

“Marcus revered the character of his benefactor, loved him as a parent, obeyed his as his sovereign... His life was the noblest commentary of the precepts of Zeno, He was severe to himself indulgent to the imperfections of others, just and beneficent to all mankind... Their united reigns are possibly the only period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government.”

Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794 CE
from Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

“this pestilence… produced two strong and irreconcilable factions… Every law, either human or divine, was trampled under foot; and as long as the party was successful, its deluded followers appeared careless of private distress or public calamity.”

Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794 CE
from Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

“Justice, humanity, or political wisdom, are qualities they are too little acquainted with in themselves, to appreciate them in others.”

Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794 CE
from Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

“It is vain to talk of the interest of the community without understanding what is the interest of the individual.”

Jeremy Bentham 1748 – 1832 CE
from Principles of Morals and Legislation

“In politics, as on a sickbed, men toss from side to side in the hope of lying more comfortably.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE via Ungar

“What everyone most aims at in ordinary contact with his fellows is to prove them inferior to himself; and how much more is this the case in politics.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE via T. Bailey Saunders
from Wisdom of Life

“Politics is a deleterious profession, like some poisonous handicrafts. Men in power have no opinions, but may be had cheap for any opinion, for any purpose.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“In politics, there is no honor... The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.”

Disraeli, Benjamin 1804 – 1881 CE
(Earl of Beaconsfield )
Political balance between mob rule and tyranny

from Practical Politics

“a king overpowered by self-interest is not worthy of being the protector of the kingdom”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE via Judith Hanson
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

17. True Leaders

“Nations, like individuals, cannot become desperate gamblers with impunity. Punishment is sure to overtake them sooner or later.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE
from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

“That government is best which governs not at all.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

17. True Leaders

“That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

75. Greed

“There will never be a really free and enlightened state until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders… rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God ”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

18. The Sick Society

“In spite of their fancy words, politicians only barter truth, love, and honor for wool, beet-root sugar, and potato spirit profits.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE via Shan Dao

17. True Leaders

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Frederick Douglass 1818 – 1895 CE
International symbol of social justice

18. The Sick Society

“The great enemy of civilization is the notion that society cannot prosper, unless the affairs of life are watched over and protected at nearly every turn by the state and the church.”

Henry Thomas Buckle 1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

17. True Leaders

“A political party has never accomplished anything for humanity. Individuals and geniuses have been the pioneers of every reform and of progress.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men...”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician

“‘And what does it amount to?’ said Satan, with his evil chuckle. ‘Nothing at all. You gain nothing… Who gets a profit out of it? Nobody but a parcel of usurping little monarchs and nobilities who despise you… whom you slave for, fight for, die for… it is the foundation upon which all civilizations have been built.’”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

53. Shameless Thieves

“The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping party. The military feelings are too deeply grounded to abdicate their place among our ideals until better substitutes are offered than the glory and shame that comes to nations as well as individuals from the ups and downs of politics”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from The Moral Equivalent of War

“Are you a slave? Then you cannot be a friend. Are you a tyrant? Then you cannot have friends.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“I used to think meanly of the plumber; but how he shines beside the politician!”

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894 CE

75. Greed

“God doesn't want politics any more.”

Vasily Vasilievich Rozanov Васи́лий Васи́льевич Рóзанов 1856 – 1919 CE

“Our present law-makers, as a body, are ignorant, corrupt and unprincipled; the majority of them are, directly or indirectly, under the control of the very monopolies against whose acts we have been seeking relief.”

Ida Tarbell 1857 – 1944 CE

“As long as politics is the shadow of big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"

“I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity.”

Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941 CE

78. Water

“My idea of politics is an open conspiracy to hurry these tiresome, wasteful, evil things—nationality and war—out of existence; to end this empire and that empire, and set up one Empire of Man.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Living Philosophies, 1931

“It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

75. Greed

“Nor is it possible to devote oneself to culture and declare that one is 'not interested' in politics.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from Freedom (1940)​

“Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians.”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“I lead no party; I follow no leader. I have given the best part of my life to careful study of Islam”

Muhammad Iqbal محمد اقبال 1877 – 1938 CE

“A sound leader's aim is to open people's hearts.”

Witter Bynner 1881 – 1968 CE
(Emanuel Morgan)
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

3. Weak Wishes, Strong Bones

“The most horrible thing is not a government that stages public executions, but a government that secretly disposes of its victims.”

Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅 1881 – 1936 CE
(Zhou Shuren; Lusin)
Insightful satirist representing the "Literature of Revolt"

from Epigrams

“Can we again conceive philosophy as unified knowledge unifying life? Can we outline a kind of philosophy that might make its lovers capable of ruling first themselves and then a state, men worthy to be philosopher-kings?”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Pleasures of Philosophy

“All men are created unequal... Politics is the art of compromise between the classes”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Heroes of History

17. True Leaders

“‘You can’t fool all the people all the time,’ but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

“They botch every natural process with theory; their ability to make speeches and multiply ideas is precisely the sign of their incapacity for action.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Our Oriental Heritage

“Plato's reduction of political evolution to a sequence of monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, and dictatorship found another illustration in the history of Rome.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

“A great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society.”

B.R. Ambedkar 1891 – 1956 CE
(Babasaheb)

66. Go Low

“Belief is the systematic taking of unanalyzed words much too seriously. Paul's words, Mohammed's words, Marx's words, Hitler's words---people take them too seriously, and what happens?…sisters of charity selflessly tending the victims of their own church's inquisitors and crusaders.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

71. Sick of Sickness

“religious, political, personal… symbols, ideas, beliefs… are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man in every relationship.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
from Core of the Teaching

67. Three Treasures

“that politics must be subordinated to morals, that government is a makeshift of temporization, law a superficial instrument of order, and police force a foolish invention for morally immature individuals”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from Wisdom of China and India

“Women administer the home. They set the rules, enforce them, mete out justice for violations. Thus, like Congress, they legislate; like the Executive, they administer; like the courts, they interpret the rules. It is an ideal experience for politics.”

Margaret Chase Smith 1897 – 1995 CE

“All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence

“There were on one side people with noble political ideas who tired to apply them, and on the other side those without a particular ideology who tried simply to make things work… I believed in just striving to make things work without a particular message… There is the same idea in Change Tzu: ‘Don’t look any longer for truth, just stop cherishing your opinions!’”

Hergé 1907 – 1983 CE
(Georges Prosper Remi )
Intrepid reporter of world culture

The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE

“So warped are the standards by which we measure criminality that players of these games are more apt to be regarded as ‘pillars of society’ than dangerous lunatics who should be exiled to remote islands where they can do no harm to themselves or others.”

Robert S. De Ropp 1913 – 1987 CE

“As the Chinese Taoists have seen, there is really no alternative to trusting man's nature. It is the most practical of practical politics.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Psychotherapy East and West

“It is when the politician loves neither the public good nor himself, or when his love for himself is limited and is satisfied by the trappings of office, that the public interest is badly served.”

John Kennedy 1917 – 1963 CE
Modern America's most popular president

from Profiles in Courage

“You begin saving the world by saving one person at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.”

Charles Bukowski 1920 – 1994 CE
"Laureate of American lowlife”
from Women

67. Three Treasures

“Wars are fought by teenagers, you realize that. They really ought to be fought by the politicians and old people who start these wars.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Radio interview, 1986

“If the gods had intended for people to vote, they would have given us candidates.”

Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010 CE
Historian of the oppressed and defeated

“Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.”

Warren Bennis 1925 – 2014 CE
Authentic Leadership pioneering thought leader

“If you're a politician, you might want to learn the Buddhist way of negotiation. Restoring communication and bringing back reconciliation is clear and concrete in Buddhism.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –

39. Oneness

“The Pentagon and the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy is a subsidy at the taxpayers' expense, so that, in effect, the citizenry pays to be propagandized in the interest of powerful groups such as military contractors and other sponsors of state terrorism.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –
from Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

“By refusing to face facts… they accelerate the tendency toward greater tour de force adventures, less predictability, less stability in general. The cycle of manic enthusiasm, then fear, then desperate solutions… all this tends to bring the most irresponsible and reckless politicians to the top.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE via Shan Dao
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

“People ask 'Who is a leader?' A leader is a person that does the work. It's very simple.”

Dolores Huerta 1930 CE –

“If we really want to make pure dharma institutions, we must only temporarily depend on society's heavy customs in order to ultimately go beyond into wisdom's customlessness.”

Thinley Norbu གདུང་སྲས་ཕྲིན་ལས་ནོར་བུ 1931 – 2011 CE
(Kyabjé Dungse)

“People are not hungry because there is no food in the world. There is plenty of it; there is a surplus in fact. But between those who want to eat and the bursting warehouses stands a tall obstacle indeed: politics.”

Ryszard Kapuściński 1932 – 2007 CE
“One of the most credible journalists the world has ever seen"

“Getting caught up in a political drama is like getting addicted to a bad soap opera and missing work so you can watch.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

18. The Sick Society

“Government needs to be the size of the problems it’s facing. If small problems, a small government; if no problems, no government; if large problems, a large government is needed. Our problems today - climate change, terrorism, the unprecedented gap between rich and poor; adapting to a radically changing world, etc. - are gigantic and global. Therefore we need a large government. Only a unified, global government will be able to successfully face this scale of global problems. Once faced and solved, we can go back to less and less government.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“We need more poetry in politics.

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people… public discussion is a political duty and should be a fundamental principle of the American government.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1933 CE –
Fierce and influential voice for justice, equality, and women's rights

“In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

“The Buddhist idea of a politician is not so much one of a con man or of a businessman who wins favor with everybody, but someone who simply does what is necessary… having a sense of responsibility to society.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from A Buddhist Approach to Politics

78. Water

“The science of politics should be regarded as great good news since it deepens the student's insight and renders his action skillful... To acquire the ability to bring about a good future situation, it is absolutely necessary to study and science of politics and become a skillful politician.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Political Treatise (1972)

“Politics is the ability for all reflections of political situations to arise in the mirror of discriminating awareness at once… the ability to look joyfully in the mirror of mind with a relaxed mind free from projections and doubt… the great confidence that is not afraid to be inspired by unprejudiced views”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Political Consciousness

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“Politics and church are the same. They keep the people in ignorance.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

“The statesman is distinguished from a mere politician by four qualities: a bedrock of principles, a moral compass, a vision, and the ability to create a consensus to achieve that vision.”

J. Rufus Fears 1945 – 2012 CE

“Never before or since have women [the daughters of Genghis Khan] exercised so much power over so many people and ruled so much territory for a long as these women did.”

Jack Weatherford 1945 CE –
from Secret History of the Mongol Queens

“In 20 years Genghis Khan conquered and ruled the largest empire in history [ ... ] far more people and territory then the Romans, Persians, Greeks, or Chinese had been able to do in centuries of sustained effort.”

Jack Weatherford 1945 CE –
from Secret History of the Mongol Queens

“In the ancient world, 'to rule' was synonymous with 'listening to the voices of the gods.'”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel
from 1Q84

“Realizing you’re not king can be the first step toward getting some real power.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

“All politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom
from American Gods

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.”

Nina Lvovna Khrushcheva Нина Львовна Хрущёва 1964 CE –

“In a functioning democracy, the chief job of a politician is to be a teacher.”

Alain de Botton 1969 CE –
Philosophic link between ancient wisdom and modern challenge
from Twitter

Sources

Analects

by Confucius

History's most influential "failure"

Art of War 孙子兵法

by Sun Tzu

HIstory's supreme strategist

Book of History

by Sima Guang

"Greatest of all Chinese historians”

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