|1.||The people lack for food|
|2.||When those above them overtax;|
|3.||That is why they lack.|
|4.||And the people can't be ruled|
|5.||When those above them serve themselves.|
|6.||That is why they can't be ruled.|
|7.||And when the people death defy|
|8.||It is but to make their lives secure— 1|
|9.||That is why.|
|10.||Worthier far than living royally|
|11.||Those who live not for themselves.|
COMMENT Analects 12.9 records a conversation between Duke Ai, the patriarch of Lu, and You Ruo, a disciple of Confucius. You Ruo was urging the duke to make do with a tax rate of 10 percent. The patriarch replied that even 20 percent was insufficient for his purposes. You Ruosaid, “If the people lack formeans, with whom will your highness share your surplus?” Duke Ai ruled Lu from 495–94 to 470– 69 b.c.
Military strategist Sunzi spells out the extraordinary costs of war: “[A]nd so the internal and external expenses, providing for diplomatic guests and dignitaries, glues and paints for repair, supplying chariots and armor come to a thousand pieces of gold a day before an army of ten thousand can be raised and readied. ” 2
There is a division of interpretation among modern scholars regarding this stanza. Some see it as representing a popular opposition to the exploitation of rulers; others see Laozi as a reform-minded member of the ruling aristocracy intent on reminding those in power what happens to those who abuse the people.