Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves; not to prize articles which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming thieves; not to show them what is likely to excite their desires is the way to keep their minds from disorder.
Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones.
He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without desire, and where there are those who have knowledge, to keep them from presuming to act (on it). When there is this abstinence from action, good order is universal.
J H McDonald
If you overly esteem talented individuals,
people will become overly competitive.
If you overvalue possessions,
people will begin to steal.
Do not display your treasures
or people will become envious.
The Master leads by
emptying people’s minds;
filling their bellies,
weakening their ambitions,
and making them become strong.
Preferring simplicity and freedom from desires,
avoiding the pitfalls of knowledge and wrong action.
For those who practice not-doing,
everything will fall into place.
Exalt not the wise,
So that the people shall not scheme and contend;
Prize not rare objects,
So that the people shall not steal;
Shut out from site the things of desire,
So that the people’s hearts shall not be disturbed.
Therefore in the government of the Sage:
He keeps empty their hearts
Makes full their bellies,
Discourages their ambitions,
Strengthens their frames;
So that the people may be innocent of knowledge and desires.
And the cunning ones shall not presume to interfere.
By action without deeds
May all live in peace.