Despite, or more likely because of, the rapid development of new technology, we still manifest our yearnings for simpler times through the growing popularity of “natural” and “organic” foodstuffs and “artisanal” and “handmade” products.
Laozi had exactly the same desires, calling for a return to a bucolic golden age in which people and states live in perfect peace and prosperity. Note that he isn’t a total Luddite. He doesn’t say that modern tools, boats, carriages, and weapons shouldn’t be available. He simply wishes that each community is run so well that the people are contented and it isn’t necessary to use them.
Keep the state small with few people,
Make sure it has powerful tools but that they never need to be used.
Make sure the people do not feel moved to risk their lives by migrating far away.
Although they have boats and carriages, give them no reason to ride in them.
Although they have armor and weapons, give them no reason to display them.
Let the people return to knotting cords and using them;
Enjoying tasty food;
Wearing beautiful clothes;
Feeling comfortable in their homes;
Delighting in their customs.
Although neighboring states are in sight of one other;
And hear each other’s cocks crowing and dogs barking;
Their peoples may grow old and die without even meeting each other.