All Agora I/O talks are recorded. We then sync them to YouTube and post them here. This is the archive of talks for Agora I/O “Laozi” – our second conference, held September 23-25, 2011.
The second Agora I/O liberty unconference is named after Laozi, also known as Lao-Tzu, who Murray Rothbard has suggested was the first libertarian.
Laozi was a mystic philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching. His association with the Tao Te Ching has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of Taoism (pronounced as “Daoism”). He is also revered as a deity in most religious forms of the Taoist religion, which often refers to Laozi as Taishang Laojun, or “One of the Three Pure Ones”. Laozi translated literally from Chinese means “old master” or “old one”, and is generally considered honorific.
According to Chinese tradition, Laozi lived in the 6th century BCE. Historians variously contend that Laozi is a synthesis of multiple historical figures, that he is a mythical figure, or that he actually lived in the 4th century BCE, concurrent with the Hundred Schools of Thought and Warring States Period.
A central figure in Chinese culture, both nobility and common people claim Laozi in their lineage. Throughout history, Laozi’s work has been embraced by various anti-authoritarian movements.
The economist Murray Rothbard suggested that Laozi was the first libertarian, likening Laozi’s ideas on government to F.A. Hayek’s theory of spontaneous order.
Political theorists influenced by Laozi have advocated humility in leadership and a restrained approach to statecraft, either for ethical and pacifist reasons, or for tactical ends. In a different context, various anti-authoritarian movements have embraced the Laozi teachings on the power of the weak. The economist Murray Rothbard suggested that Laozi was the first libertarian, likening Laozi’s ideas on government to F.A. Hayek’s theory of spontaneous order. James A. Dorn agreed, writing that Laozi, like many 18th century liberals, “argued that minimizing the role of government and letting individuals develop spontaneously would best achieve social and economic harmony.” Similarly, the Cato Institute’s David Boaz includes passages from the Daodejing in his 1997 book The Libertarian Reader. Philosopher Roderick Long, however, argues that libertarian themes in Taoist thought are actually borrowed from earlier Confucian writers.
Text courtesy Wikipedia.