David Boaz writes:
"The first known libertarian may have been the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, who lived around the sixth century B.C. and is best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching."
Libertarianism: A Primer (page 27)
Selected chapters of the Tao Te Ching support this claim:
60 - Governing a large country
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking.
Center your country in the Tao
and evil will have no power.
Not that it isn't there,
but you'll be able to step out of its way.
Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.
75 - When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people's benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.
81 - True words aren't eloquent;
eloquent words aren't true.
Wise men don't need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren't wise.
The Master has no possessions. The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.
The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.