Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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What is crime? But maybe the more relevant question becomes who defines “crime” and on what do they base their definition? Through most of history, crime was defined by the rich and powerful in ways to most protect and increase their wealth and privilege. The extent of civilization’s evolution could be defined by how much it transforms the idea crime from protecting the privileged to equal justice for all. In the religious realm, “crime” often becomes translated as “sin.” Just as politicians corrupt the definition for their political gain, priests, gurus, and ministers corrupt their definitions in ways to protect their own power and entitlement. In the 19th century, the more enlightened view of crime hit a high note when Arthur Schopenhauer said that, “it’s easy to define human rights: everyone has the right to do anything that does not injure another.” Not defining victimless infractions as crime or sin however still represents an ideal still not realized in most of the world.

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Quotes (75)

“If I commit an offense, it has nothing to do with my people. If my people commit an offense, the offense rests with me.”

Emperor Shun 帝舜 2294 – 2184 BCE
The highest model of a good ruler

Themes: Crime

78. Water

“The blessed gods have no love for crime. They honor justice, honor the decent acts of men.”

Homer 1 via Robert Fagles
Primogenitor of Western culture
from Odyssey, Ὀδύσσεια

Themes: Crime Justice

“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

“Rid of legalized profiteering, people would have no thieves to fear.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Witter Bynner
from Way of Life According to Lao Tzu

Themes: Crime

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“The true and worst but most often unpunished criminals wearing wealth fill their mansions with splendor when granaries are empty and farms are poor and wild. They never hunger, never thirst; yet eat and drink until they burst.”

Lao Tzu 老子 1 via Shan Dao, Witter Bynner; #53

“Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.”

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

Themes: Mistakes Crime

43. No Effort, No Trace

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

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

Themes: Crime Hate

“Were there no question of advantage, the honest would be as likely to lie as the liar, and the liar would tell the truth as readily as the honest man.”

Herodotus Ἡρόδοτος 1 via Aubrey de Selincourt
“The Father of History”
from Histories

Themes: Crime Lies

“When I was a boy, wealth was regarded as a thing so secure and admirable that almost everyone affected to own more property than possessed... now a man has to be ready to defend himself against being rich as if it were the worst of crimes.”

Isocrates Ἰσοκράτης 436 – 338 BCE
from 353 BCE

Themes: Crime Wealth

“When he saw temple officials arresting someone who had stolen a bowl from them, Diogenes said, "The great thieves are leading away the little thief."”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE
(of Sinope)

Themes: Punishment Crime

53. Shameless Thieves

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE

53. Shameless Thieves

“To keep a constant mind-and-heart of goodness without a constant, meaningful livelihood is only possible for a very few. If people lack a good livelihood, it follows that they will lack a good mind and heart; will become reckless, depraved, and stop at nothing. Only hypocritical, greedy, and criminal leaders create the causes of crime and then punish the people for it.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner, Shan Dao
from Book of Mencius 孟子

Themes: Crime Livelihood

75. Greed

“In years of prosperity, most of the young people are well behaved; but, in bad years, most of the young people turn to violence.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Lin Yutang
from Book of Mencius 孟子

Themes: Crime

“The petty thief is imprisoned but the big thief becomes an investment banker (Chuang Tzu used ‘feudal lord’).”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE

Themes: Crime

53. Shameless Thieves

“When the court is in good repair, lawsuits abound. When lawsuits abound, fields become overgrown. When fields beome overgrown, granaries beome empty. When granaries become empty, the country becomes poor. When the country becomes poor, customs become decadent, and there is no trick people don’t try.”

Hán Fēi 韓非 280 – 233 BCE

Themes: Crime

53. Shameless Thieves

“If I decrease expenses and lower taxes, permit only honest officials, the people will have enough food and clothing. This will do more to abolish robbery than the most severe punishments.”

Taizong of Tang 唐太宗 唐太宗 598 – 649 CE via Will Durant, Shan Dao
(Li Shimin)

“Shun, as you would the plague, a cleric who from being poor has become wealthy, or who, from being a nobody has become a celebrity.”

Thomas Aquinas 1225 – 1274 CE
from Summa Theologica

Themes: Crime

“Lawful gains rarely come to the good because they require much anxious care and the good—their care directed to weightier matters—rarely have time or motivation for that much care.”

Dante 1265 – 1321 CE
(Durante degli Alighieri)
from The Convivio

Themes: Crime

“The true criminal must be defined as a man who commits a crime though he is as decently fed and clothed as others.”

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

Themes: Crime

“The root of confused and harmful activity arise from the loss of awareness.”

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་

“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, Zhu Yuanzhan)
One of the most influential emperors in all of Chinese history

74. The Great Executioner

“They force people to turn to stealing and then try to rule with cleverness and laws. But the more laws they make, the more thieves appear.”

Deqing 1546 – 1623 CE

Themes: Crime

53. Shameless Thieves

“A noble nature always knows how to find an excuse for failings”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, chapter #109
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Crime

“The less words, the less litigation”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Crime

“the greatest evil in heaven and on earth: they pass through the world without doing any useful work and are thus great thieves”

Bunan 至道無難 1603 – 1676 CE
(Shido Bunan Zenji Munan)

“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

“History in general is a collection of crimes, follies, and misfortunes among which we have now and then met with a few virtues, and some happy times... The history of the great events of this world are scarcely more than the history of crimes.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from Essay on the Morals and the Spirit of Nations

Themes: Crime History

“War is the greatest of all crimes; and yet there is no aggressor who does not color his crime with the pretext of justice.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from The Ignorant Philosopher

Themes: Justice War Crime

“it being more difficult for a man in want to act honestly… ‘it is hard for an empty sack to stand upright.’”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Poor Richard's Almanack

Themes: Crime

53. Shameless Thieves

“I never doubted… that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteem’d the essentials of every religion.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

54. Planting Well

“The first person who enclosed a piece of land said, 'This is mine' and convinced foolish others to believe him became the founder of civil society
creating the beginnings of crime, war, myriad horror and misfortunes.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE via GDH Cole, Shan Dao

Themes: Crime Government

“Man has much more to fear from the passions of his fellow creatures than from the convulsions of the elements. [History is] indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.”

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

Themes: Crime History

“It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime."”

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 CE

Themes: Lies Crime

“Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!”

Madame Roland 1754 – 1793 CE via Mémoires de Madame Roland (1795)
(Marie-Jeanne Phlippon)
Revolutionary heroine

Themes: Crime

“Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE
from Proverbs of Hell​

“The rich rob the poor, and the poor rob one another.”

Sojourner Truth 1797 – 1883 CE
(Isabella (“Bell”) Baumfree)

Themes: Poverty Crime

“Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)

Themes: Crime Wealth

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

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

Themes: Crime Punishment

“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

“There is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of man.”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

“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

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

Henry Thomas Buckle 1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

74. The Great Executioner

“Remember particularly that you cannot be a judge of anyone. For no one can judge a criminal until he recognizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him, and that he perhaps is more than all men to blame for that crime.”

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

“all these punishments reform no one, and what's more, deter hardly a single criminal, and the number of crimes does not diminish but is continually on the increase.”

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

Themes: Punishment Crime

“Liberty, next to religion, has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime... beset by its natural enemies: ignorance, superstition, lust of conquest, love of ease, craving for power”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from History of Freedom, 1907

“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

“Our crime against criminals lies in the fact that we treat them like scoundrels.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Human All Too Human - A Book for Free Spirits

Themes: Crime

“What you call crime is nothing; a murder here and a theft there... what do they matter? They are only the accidents and illnesses of life; there are not 50 genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill-fed, ill-clothed people.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Preface, Major Barbara (1907)

Themes: Crime

“Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.”

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

Themes: Competition Crime

“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)

“To my mind, to kill in war is not a whit better than to commit ordinary murder.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE via Kaizo, Tokyo 1952

Themes: Crime

“Do not guard yourself against those who call themselves thieves, for when you find out the opposite, they turn out to be gentlemen. Guard yourself against those who call themselves gentlemen, for when you discover the opposite, they turn out to be thieves.”

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

from Epigrams of Lusin

Themes: Crime Paradox

“He who robs us of our dreams robs us of our life.”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE

Themes: Dream Crime

“The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked… the guilty is oftentimes the victim of the injured.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

Themes: Crime

“There is an anarchist in all of us that inclines us to sympathize with a felon who is desperately and cleverly eluding the police; nobody loves a policeman until he needs one.”

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

Themes: Crime Crime

“And though we acknowledge that poverty is a spur to crime, we perceive that the root of crime, in all classes, nations, and ages, is the basically lawless nature of man, formed by a million years of hunting, fighting, killing, and greed.”

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

Themes: Crime

“There is an anarchist in all of us that inclines us to sympathize with a felon who is desperately and cleverly eluding the police; nobody loves a policeman until he needs one.”

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

Themes: Crime Crime

“Hunger makes a thief of any man.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE

Themes: Crime

“A person seeking to end violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party… they are only concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

“… 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

“the essential crime that contained all others in itself—Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from 1984

Themes: Crime

“The punishment always does more harm than the crime and the people can be trusted to behave decently if you will only let them alone.”

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

Themes: Punishment Crime

“Going along with the rest and wanting to say 'we' were quite enough to make the greatest of all crimes possible.”

Hannah Arendt 1906 – 1975 CE
Fearless researcher into the darker reaches of the human psyche

Themes: Conformity Crime

“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

“'I'll sue you,' the door said as the first screw fell out. Joe Chip said, 'I've never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.'”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Ubik

Themes: Crime

“We must never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was 'legal'... It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal.”

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

Themes: Crime Judaism

“It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of white society.”

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

Themes: Crime

“The worst crimes are not committed by evil degenerates, but by decent and intelligent people taking 'pragmatic' decisions.”

Colin Wilson 1931 – 2013 CE

Themes: Crime

“Buddha teaches us not just to accept [violence] but to understand the cause of it and do something creative about it.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee
from The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa

Themes: Crime

“The people who are trying to make this world worse aren't taking a day off. How can I?”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

Themes: Crime

“Violent crime was tamed by a replacement of the code of vendetta by the rule of law, by fairer judicial systems and, most recently, by data-driven policing.”

Steven Pinker 1954 CE –
Humanistic scientist, insightful cultural commentaror
from Enlightenment Now

Themes: Crime

“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

“for a society built on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress.”

N. K. Jemisin 1972 CE –
from Broken Earth

“Animals are the main victims of history, and the treatment of domesticated animals in industrial farms is perhaps the worst crime in history.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Introduction to Animal Liberation (2015)

Themes: Crime

“Half the world regulates sex work by criminalizing everyone involved. But if you’re forced to choose between obeying the law and feeding yourself or your family, you’re going to do the work anyway, and take the risk... The law forces you to keep selling sex, which is the exact opposite of its intended effect... prohibiting the sex industry actually exacerbates every harm that sex workers are vulnerable to.”

Juno Mac 1990 CE –
Compelling Prostitution Advocate

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