A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worst when they despise him. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, 'We did this ourselves.'
People are mysterious entities – try to take hold of them and you will only lose them. Thus, sometimes it is better to show the way, and sometimes it is better to follow.
The great Tao (or way) is very level and easy; but people love the by-ways.
Why is the sea king of a hundred streams? Because it lies below them. Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams.
Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, earnestly carry it into practice. Scholars of the middle class, when they have heard about it, seem now to keep it and now to lose it. Scholars of the lowest class, when they have heard about it, laugh greatly at it. If it were not (thus) laughed at, it would not be fit to be the Tao.
Why do the people starve? It is because those at the top eat too much, and taxes are too high. This is why the people starve. Why are the people difficult to lead? It is because those in authority are meddlesome in their affairs. This is why the people are difficult to lead.