Chapter 3 Keeping the people at rest

不尚賢,使民不爭;不貴難得之貨,使民不為盜;不見可欲,使心不亂。是以聖人之治,虛其心,實其腹,弱其志,強其骨。常使民無知無欲。使夫1知者不敢為也。為無為,則無不治。

1. Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves; not to prize articles which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming thieves; not to show them what is likely to excite their desires is the way to keep their minds from disorder.

2. Therefore the sage, in the exercise of his government, empties their minds, fills their bellies, weakens their wills, and strengthens their bones.

3. He constantly (tries to) keep them without knowledge and without desire, and where there are those who have knowledge, to keep them from presuming to act (on it). When there is this abstinence from action, good order is universal.

Derek Lin
Do not glorify the achievers
So the people will not squabble
Do not treasure goods that are hard to obtain
So the people will not become thieves
Do not show the desired things
So their hearts will not be confused

Thus the governance of the sage:
Empties their hearts
Fills their bellies
Weakens their ambitions
Strengthens their bones

Let the people have no cunning and no greed
So those who scheme will not dare to meddle

Act without contrivance
And nothing will be beyond control

Peter Merel

Not praising the worthy prevents contention,
Not esteeming the valuable prevents theft,
Not displaying the beautiful prevents desire.
In this manner the sage governs people:
Emptying their minds,
Filling their bellies,
Weakening their ambitions,
And strengthening their bones.
If people lack knowledge and desire
Then they can not act;
If no action is taken
Harmony remains.