Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
Search Quotes Search Sages Search Chapters

CanStockPhoto

Law and Order

Concepts about law and order closely reflect ideas about freedom and equality. The more laws, most-likely the less freedom; but not necessarily the more equality. Strict laws also often support dictatorial and oppressive regimes. History however also demonstrates how lawlessness often leads to much more human suffering than the oppressions of wealth and power. Though not always, laws can provide a strong foundation for equality. Plato pit those who believe “might makes right” against those proposing a higher, intrinsic quality of the right, the “just.” One side says, “the stronger do whatever they can and the weaker suffer whatever they must.” Opposing views define justice as the “fair,” and Aristotle discussed it in terms of equality saying, “Awards should be given according to merit” and Mill extended this idea to an “equality under the law” for all. Society’s view of punishment and the purpose of punishment also influences its perspective on law and order. If the purpose of punishment is retribution and revenge, laws will evolve in a very different way than if it prioritizes deterrence and rehabilitation. Although still wasting billions of dollars and decades of our court’s time on issues of “intent,” the reality of biological and environmental determinism is steadily making obsolete the antiquated attitude of crime and punishment as revenge.

Read More

Quotes (93)

“Laws are like spider webs—if a poor, weak creature touches them, it is caught; but, a big one can break through and get away.”

Solon 638 – 558 BCE
Founder of Athenian democracy

Themes: Law and Order

“As soon as laws are necessary for men, they are no longer fit for freedom.”

Pythagorus 570 – 495 BCE
(of Samos)
"The most influential philosopher of all time"
from Golden Verses of Pythagoras Χρύσεα

Themes: Law and Order

53. Shameless Thieves

“Good government is that which resorts least to laws and punishments.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

60. Less is More

“The laws of men derive from the divine law, which is whole and single, which penetrates as it will to satisfy human purposes, but is mightier than any law know to men.”

Heraclitus Ἡράκλειτος 535 – 475 BCE via Anagarika Govinda
(of Ephesus, the "Weeping Philosopher")
A Greek Buddha

“Laws can never be enforced unless fear supports them.”

Sophocles Σοφοκλῆς 497 – 405 BCE
“The Wise and Honored One”
from Ajax, 409 BCE​

Themes: Law and Order
“What is lawful is not binding only on some and not binding on others. Lawfulness extends everywhere, through the wide-ruling air and the boundless light of the sky.

Empedocles 490 – 430 BCE
"The father of rhetoric"—Aristotle
from On Nature

Themes: Law and Order

“It was the principle of this Court that deterrent laws, however strict, are useless without positive moral discipline; that the happiness of citizens depends, not on having the walls of their porticoes covered with laws, but on having justice in their hearts.”

Isocrates Ἰσοκράτης 436 – 338 BCE

“good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE
from Republic Πολιτεία

Themes: Law and Order

53. Shameless Thieves

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

Demosthenes Δημοσθένης 384 – 322 BCE

“When men are enlightened enough to follow their natural instincts, they will have no need of law-courts or police, will have no temples and no public worship, and use no money”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE
(of Citium)

Themes: Law and Order

70. Inscrutable

“Where you find the laws most numerous, there you will find also the greatest injustice. Virtue is its own reward.”

Zeno Ζήνων ὁ Κιτιεύς 334 – 262 BCE
(of Citium)

“Where you find the laws most numerous, there you will find also the greatest injustice.”

Arcesilaus Ἀρκεσίλαος 316 – 241 BCE

57. Wu Wei

“If tasks are big and many and are frequently shifted, few of them can be accomplished; if we move a big vessel too often, it will incur many damages; if, when governing a big country, you alter laws and decrees too often, the people will suffer hardships.”

Hán Fēi 韓非 280 – 233 BCE

60. Less is More

“The good of the people is the highest law.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE
from De Legibus, 52 BCE

Themes: Law and Order

“Law is the highest reason, implanted in Nature; intelligence whose natural function is to command right conduct and forbid wrongdoing; the foundation of liberty, the fountainhead of all justice. We are threfore all slaves of the laws that we may enjoy freedom.”

Cicero 106 – 43 BCE via Shan Dao
from De Legibus, 52 BCE

“Mankind, tired out with a life of brute force, lay exhausted from its feuds; and therefore the more readily submitted its own free will to laws and stringent codes.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE
(Titus Carus)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’… in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Saint Matthew
from New Testament Διαθήκη

“Laws change more slowly than custom, and though dangerous when they fall behind the times are more dangerous still when they presume to anticipate custom.”

Hadrian 76 – 180 CE

Themes: Law and Order

“From time immemorial I have washed out stains but I cannot make charcoal white.”

Dhobīpa དྷོ་བཱི་པ། 806 – 906 CE via Keith Dowman
(“The Wise Washerman” )
Mahasiddha #28
from Masters of Mahamudra

Themes: Law and Order

43. No Effort, No Trace

“No unintentional transgression is too great for his leniency… No intentional crime is too small for his punishment.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE via Ralph D. Sawyer
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

73. Heaven’s Net

“All is one law, not two. It is as gold and dross, or the moon emerging from a cloud. One path of clear light travels on throughout endless time.”

Kakuan Shien 廓庵師遠 1100 – 1200 CE
(Kuo-an Shih-yuan, Kuòān Shīyuǎn )
Most popular Ten Bulls artist/poet

from 10 Bulls

“God would never give us reason, then give us divine laws that contradict such reason.”

Averroes, Ibn Rushd ابن رشد‎‎ 1126 – 1198 CE

“punishments cannot be relied upon for governing… the more people we kill, the more people break the law. Thus, punishment is not the answer.”

Li Xizhai 12th century CE via Red Pine
(Li Hsi-Chai)
from Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh

74. The Great Executioner

“Law: an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community.”

Thomas Aquinas 1225 – 1274 CE

Themes: Law and Order

“So long as people, being ill-governed, suffer from hunger, criminals will never disappear. It is extremely unkind to punish those who, being sufferers from hunger, are compelled to violate laws.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Harvest of Leisure

“When I first ascended the throne, the people were unruly and officials corrupt. If ten people were executed in the morning, a hundred were breaking the same law by evening… I turned to the Taoteching… decided to do away with capital punishment and put criminals to work instead. In the year since then, the burdens of my heart have been lightened. Truly, this book is the greatest teacher of kings.”

Ming Taizu 明太祖 1328 – 1398 CE
(the Hongwu Emperor)

74. The Great Executioner

“Religion is the most necessary and assured support of any civil society... there never was a successful lawgiver who did not resort to divine authority, as otherwise his laws would not have been accepted by the people.”

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

“For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted… what else is to be concluded but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

Themes: Law and Order

75. Greed

“Every modern society seems to me to be nothing but a conspiracy of the rich, who while protesting their interest in the common good pursue their own interests and stop at no trick and deception to secure their ill-gotten possessions, to pay as little as possible for the labor that produces their wealth and so force its makers to accept the nearest thing to nothing. They contrive rules for securing and assuring these tidy profits for the rich in the name of the common good, including of course the poor, and call them laws!”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

“There is no man so good that if he placed all his actions and thoughts under the scrutiny of the laws, he would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE

Themes: Law and Order

“Robbers and thieves arise from hunger and cold. If people are hungry and have no means to live, they have no choice but to steal. When people steal, it’s because those above force them..”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE
(Te-Ch’ing)

75. Greed

“A state is better governed which has few laws, and those laws strictly observed.”

René Descartes 1596 – 1650 CE

Themes: Law and Order

“All laws which can be violated without doing any one any injury are laughed at. Nay, so far are they from doing anything to control the desires and passions of men that, on the contrary, they direct and incite men's thoughts the more toward those very objects, for we always strive toward what is forbidden and desire the things we are not allowed to have. And men of leisure are never deficient in the ingenuity needed to enable them to outwit laws framed to regulate things which cannot be entirely forbidden... He who tries to determine everything by law will foment crime rather than lessen it.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.”

Jonathan Swift 1667 – 1745 CE
"Foremost prose satirist in the English language"

Themes: Law and Order

“In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something and no one has too much.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

Themes: Law and Order

53. Shameless Thieves

“frequent punishments are a sign of weakness or slackness in the government. There is no man so bad that he cannot be made good for something.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE

74. The Great Executioner

“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

“It was an inflexible maxim of Roman discipline that good soldier should dread his own officers far more than the enemy.”

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

“Every law is an infraction of liberty.”

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

75. Greed

“Law is an institution with the most pernicious tendency. Once begun, it can never be brought to a close because no new action is ever the same as any other action. As new cases occur, the law is perpetually found deficient. It is therefore perpetually necessary to make new laws.”

William Godwin 1756 – 1836 CE via Shan Dao
Provocative and influential social, political, and literary critic
from Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

Themes: Law and Order

“The laws of the Jews were the basest and most oppressive of human codes and—being like all other codes given under the pretense of divine command—were... the Abomination that maketh desolation, i.e. State Religion which is the source of all Cruelty.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE
from Annotations to Watson's "Apology for the Bible" 1798

“vulgar minds who are swayed by all kinds of current opinions, authorities, and prejudices, are like the people which in silence obey the law and commands.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

Themes: Law and Order

71. Sick of Sickness

“The secret strength of things which governs thought, and to the infinite dome of heaven is as a law”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE
from Mont Blanc

Themes: Law and Order

“Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Themes: Law and Order

“The highest virtue is always against the law.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken.”

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

from Contanini Fleming

Themes: Law and Order

“Then in this country a man is to be punished or not, according to his ability to fee a lawyer!”

Anthony Trollope 1815 – 1882 CE
Novelist as teacher

“Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.”

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

“It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

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

Themes: Law and Order

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

Frederick Douglass 1818 – 1895 CE
International symbol of social justice

53. Shameless Thieves

“Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it.”

Henry Thomas Buckle 1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

74. The Great Executioner

“Let other nations think of retribution and the letter of the law. We will cling to the spirit and the meaning—the salvation and reformation of the lost.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE
from Brothers Karamatzov

“The real law lives in our hearts. If our hearts are empty, no law or political reform can fill them.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE

Themes: Law and Order

“Laws are the product of selfishness, deception, and party prejudice. Trust justice is not in them and cannot be in them.”

Leo Tolstoy 1828 – 1910 CE
from The Kingdom of God is Within You (1893)

“For property is robbery, but then, we are all robbers or would-be robbers together, and have found it essential to organize our thieving, as we have found it necessary to organize our lust and our revenge. Property, marriage, the law; as the bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

“For property is robbery, but then, we are all robbers or would-be robbers together, and have found it essential to organize our thieving, as we have found it necessary to organize our lust and our revenge. Property, marriage, the law; as the bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

“Science, like life, feeds on its own decay. New facts burst old rules; then newly divined conceptions bind old and new together into a reconciling law.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from The Will to Believe

“The poor have to labor in the face of the majestic equality of the law, which forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to be in the streets, and to steal bread.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

75. Greed

“Crime is only the retail department of what in wholesale, we call penal law.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Maxims for Revolutionists

“Judges demand precedent to keep in line with public opinion. But since public opinion is constantly changing, precedent is the one thing they should avoid.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE via Shan Dao
from A Thosand and One Epigrams, 1911

Themes: Law and Order

“Equality before the Law, is thus a contradiction in terms for Law itself is an incarnation of Inequality. It is true only in the subjective sense, that all who OBEY the Law are equally the servants of those who make it or caused it to be made.”

Arthur Desmond 1859 – 1929 CE
from Might Is Right

“What is your ‘civilization and progress‘ if its only outcome is hysteria and down going? What is ‘government and law‘ if their ripened harvests are men without sap? What are ‘religions and literatures‘ if their grandest productions are hordes of faithful slaves?”

Arthur Desmond 1859 – 1929 CE
from Might Is Right

“It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

Themes: Law and Order

“In my most desperate moments, I have never conceived of anything more horrible than a law office.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind

Themes: Law and Order

“Government can easily exist without law, but law cannot exist without government... government is necessary if anything worthy to be called civilization is to exist, but all history shows that any set of men entrusted with power over another set will abuse their power if they can do so with impunity.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

“The fundamental idea is that Tao, though itself motionless, is the means of all movement and gives it law... The original meaning is that of a 'track which, though fixed itself, leads from the beginning directly to the goal.'”

Richard Wilhelm 1873 – 1930 CE
Translator bridging East and West
from Introduction to Secret of the Golden Flower

“We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain us from bad laws.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Law and Order

78. Water

“Those who are too lazy and comfortable to think for themselves and be their own judges obey the laws. Others sense their own laws within them.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“In existing criminology there are concepts like a criminal man, a criminal profession, a criminal society, a criminal sect, and a criminal tribe; but there is no concept of a criminal state, or a criminal government, or criminal legislation. Consequently, the biggest crimes actually escape being called crimes.”

Ouspensky Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский 1878 – 1947 CE
(Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii)

“They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Law and Order

“The Locrians required any man who wished to propose a new law to speak with a rope around his neck, so that, if his motion failed, he might be hanged with a minimum of public inconvenience.”

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

Themes: Law and Order

“The first stage in the evolution of law is personal revenge... It appears in Roman and Mosaic Law, the Code of Hammurabi... and lurks behind most legal punishments even in our day. The second step was the substitution of damages for revenge.”

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

Themes: Law and Order

“Hunger makes a thief of any man.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE

Themes: Law and Order

75. Greed

“Where there are too many policemen, there is no liberty. Where there are too many soldiers, there is no peace. Where there are too many lawyers, there is no justice.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE

53. Shameless Thieves

“People need to learn how to regulate their lives socially and not just rely upon the law. The law should be the resort of the scoundrel... for 4000 years, China had no police.”

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

Themes: Law and Order

“The anarchy of competing sovereign states must lead to war sooner or later. Therefore we must have law, enforced by a world organization attained through world co-operation and community.”

Robert Hutchins 1899 – 1977 CE
(Robert Maynard Hutchins)
from The Great Conversation

“… crime was very rare, partly because only serious things were considered crimes, and partly because everyone enjoyed a sufficiency of everything he could reasonably desire.”

James Hilton 1900 – 1954 CE
from Lost Horizon

53. Shameless Thieves

“Laws are never as effective as habits.”

Adlai Stevenson 1900 – 1965 CE

“It is always necessary to protect peaceful people from violence. In any state of society where crime can be profitable you have got to have a harsh criminal law and administer it ruthlessly.”

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

“The death penalty is no more effective a deterrent than life imprisonment… It is also evident that the burden of capital punishment falls upon the poor, the ignorant and the – underprivileged members of society.”

Thurgood Marshall 1908 – 1993 CE

74. The Great Executioner

“Mendoza said to Tanner, ‘I am a brigand; I live by robbing the rich.’ Tanner replied, ‘I am a gentleman; I live by robbing the poor. Shake hands.’”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE
from Rules for Radicals

“In this world laws are written for the lofty aim of ‘the common good’ and then acted out in life on the basis of the common greed.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE

“Precepts invite us to be true to ourselves.”

Freda Bedi, Sister Palmo 1911 – 1977 CE

Themes: Law and Order

“Governments maintain this sense in a mild form by seeing to it that the laws are so complex that every citizen is inadvertently guilty of some crime, making it possible to convict anyone when convenient.”

Alan Watts 1915 – 1973 CE
from Beyond Theology (1964)

“The law may upset reason but reason may never upset the law, or our whole society will shred like an old tatami.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Shōgun, 1975

“In such a world, the rule of law maintains things as they are. Therefore, to begin the process of change, to stop a war, to establish justice, it may be necessary to break the law, to commit acts of civil disobedience, as Southern black did, as antiwar protesters did.”

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

Themes: Law and Order

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 – 1968 CE
Leading world influence for equality, peace, non-violence, and poverty alleviation

Themes: Law and Order

“If there isn’t any format; there’s no freedom. Freedom has to come from structure… freedom itself exists in structure.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE

“The conventional moral law purely has to do with relating with your conscience rather than dealing with situations… that means you don’t actually relate with the situation at all; you don’t even have any idea of understanding.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

Themes: Law and Order

22. Heaven's Door

“I am intrigued by the arguments of those who claim to follow the judicial doctrine of original intent. How do they know it was the dearest wish of Thomas Jefferson's heart that teen-age drug dealers should cruise the cities of this nation perforating their fellow citizens with assault rifles? Channelling?”

Molly Ivins 1944 – 2007 CE
Biting but humorous social commentator

Themes: Law and Order

“A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.”

Benazir Bhutto بينظير ڀُٽو‎; 1953 – 2007 CE

“Genghis Khan... brought with him an all-embracing openness, a religious tolerance based on shamanic principles that was almost as much of a threat to his enemies as anything else. He introduced not just the idea but the reality of international law and trade and travel, and helped lay the foundations for the modern world.”

Peter Kingsley 1953 CE –
from A Story Waiting to Pierce You

“I believe [...] that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.”

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

Comments (0)