Daodejing Chapter 75 breakdown: the people starve

Richard Brown
2 min readNov 3, 2023

Chapter 75 of the Daodejing calls on members of the ruling class to give up their insatiable desire for luxury, power, and glory and show greater care for the well-being of the common people. The greater the excesses of the elite, the greater the suffering of the people.

Section 1
The people starve,
Because their rulers squander
Their taxes on food.
That is why the people starve.

The chapter begins by pointing out that when people are starving, it is because members of the ruling class have mismanaged their resources, particularly their tax revenues. Instead of using taxes to ensure the welfare of the people, the elite blow the funds on their own luxuries. As a result, the basic needs of the population are neglected, leading to hunger and starvation.

Section 2
The people are difficult to govern,
Because their rulers interfere too much.
That is why they are difficult to govern.

The text warns members of the ruling class to avoid excessive interference in the lives of their people. The greater the levels of exploitation and oppression, the greater the chance the people will rebel without any regard to the consequences.

Section 3
The people make light of death.
Because their rulers lead lives of excess.
That is why they make light of death.

When they see the ruling class unable to control their voracious desire for ever fancier food and drink and ever greater levels of fame and power, the people come to conclude that they have nothing to lose by adopting a similarly dissolute lifestyle and forget the teachings of the Dao.

Section 4
Those who take life as it comes
Are wiser than those who try to force it.

The chapter closes with a reminder that wisdom lies in accepting and adapting to the natural order of things rather than attempting to manipulate or dominate every aspect of life. The more you squander precious time and resources on chasing after excessive pleasure and power, the more you risk meeting an untimely end. The key to a long and fulfilling life is wuwei, effortless action, rather than forceful intervention.

Related Links
Daodejing Chapter 75: tightening their belts

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Richard Brown

I live in Taiwan and am interested in exploring what ancient Chinese philosophy can tell us about technology and the rise of modern China.