Lao Tzu became very famous, a wise man, and he was without any doubt one of the wisest men ever. The emperor of China asked him very humbly to become his chief of the supreme court, because nobody could guide the country’s laws better than him. He tried to persuade the emperor, “I am not the right man,” but the emperor was insisting.
Lao Tzu said, “If you don’t listen to me…Just one day in the court and you will be convinced that I am not the right man – because the system is wrong. Out of humbleness I was not saying the truth to you. Either I can exist or your law and your order and your society can exist. So let us try it.”
The first day a thief was brought into the court who had stolen almost half the treasures of the richest man in the capital. Lao Tzu listened to the case and then he said that the thief and the richest man should both go to jail for six months.
The rich man said, “What are you saying? I have been stolen from, I have been robbed – and what kind of justice is this, that you are sending me to jail for the same time as the thief?”
Lao Tzu said, “I am certainly being unfair to the thief. Your need to be in jail is more, because you have collected so much money, deprived so many people of money that thousands of people are down and you are collecting and collecting money – for what? Your very greed is creating these thieves. You are responsible. The first crime is yours.”
Lao Tzu’s logic is absolutely clear. If there are going to be too many poor people and only a few rich people, you cannot stop thieves, you cannot stop stealing. The only way to stop it is to have a society where everybody has enough to fulfill his needs, and nobody has unnecessary accumulation just out of greed.
The rich man said, “Before you send me to jail I want to see the emperor, because this is not according to the constitution; this is not according to the law of the country.”
Lao Tzu said, “That is the fault of the constitution and the fault of the law of the country. I am not responsible for it. You can see the emperor.”
And the rich man said to the emperor, “Listen, this man should be immediately deposed from his post; he is dangerous. Today I am going into jail, tomorrow you will be in jail. If you want to save yourself, this man has to be thrown out; he is absolutely dangerous. And he is very rational: what he is saying is right – I can understand it – but he will destroy us.”
The king understood it perfectly well. “If this rich man is a criminal, then I am the greatest criminal in the country. Lao Tzu will not hesitate to send me to jail.”
Lao Tzu was relieved of his post. He said, “I had told you before, you are unnecessarily wasting my time. I was saying I am not the right man. The reality is, your society, your law, your constitution are not the right constitution, not the right law. You need wrong people to run this whole wrong system.”