1. The ancients who showed their skill in practising the Dao did so, not to enlighten the people, but rather to make them simple and ignorant.
2. The difficulty in governing the people arises from their having much knowledge. He who (tries to) govern a state by his wisdom is a scourge to it; while he who does not (try to) do so is a blessing.
3. He who knows these two things finds in them also his model and rule. Ability to know this model and rule constitutes what we call the mysterious excellence (of a governor). Deep and far-reaching is such mysterious excellence, showing indeed its possessor as opposite to others, but leading them to a great conformity to him.
淳德, 'Pure, unmixed Excellence.' The chapter shows the powerful and beneficent influence of the Dao in government, in contrast with the applications and contrivances of human wisdom. Compare ch. 19. My 'simple and ignorant' is taken from Julien. More literally the translation would be 'to make them stupid.' My 'scourge' in par. 2 is also after Julien's 'fléau.'