Drop wisdom, abandon cleverness,
And the people will be benefited a hundredfold.
Drop humanity, abandon justice,
And the people will return to their natural affections.
Drop shrewdness, abandon sharpness,
And robbers and thieves will cease to be.
These three are the criss-cross of Tao,
And are not sufficient in themselves.
Therefore, they should be subordinated
To a Higher principle:
See the Simple and embrace the Primal,
Diminish the self and curb the desires!
This passage appears to be related to Chapter 18. The difference appears to be that this chapter seems to be directed at leaders and how to apply the Taoist principles when governing.
By imposing one’s wisdom and cleverness upon others, you deny people the chance to learn and develop on their own. By forcing one’s ideas of humanity and justice upon others, you deny them the chance to develop compassion and empathy. Finally, when ruling shrewdly and with sharp discipline, people will become resentful and will ultimately steal from you or openly rebel.
It seems counterintuitive that doing things which seem positive will foster negative results, but this is what the Tao teaches. Everything balances itself, and there must always be equal amounts of positive and negative energy. So, “diminish the self and curb the desires” and allow nature to guide individuals as it deems fit.