It is commonly believed that Niccolo Machiavelli, the Renaissance philosopher and political advisor to the Medici Princes of Florence, was a scheming and devious man. The adjective “Machiavellian” in Webster’s New World Dictionary is defined as “crafty, deceitful . . .characterized by the political principles and methods of expediency and duplicity set forth in Machiavelli’s book, ‘The Prince.'” However, when I read the book, most of Machiavelli’s advice concerned the need of the leader to keep the good will of the people, resist the elites’ demand for privilege, and not interfere with the common people. Such advice could well be given to today’s leaders who constantly interfere with the people’s rights, their independence, and their pocketbooks.
Machiavelli warned his Prince about excess oppression of the people: “A Prince sooner becomes hated by being rapacious and by interfering with the property and with the women of his subjects, than in any other way. From these, therefore, he should abstain. For so long as neither their property nor their honor is touched, the mass of mankind live contentedly, and the Prince has only to cope with the ambition of a few. . .” But our President ignores these admonitions and instead bails out the “few” on Wall Street and loads the people with regulations, mandates, and taxes. He talks democracy, but practices fascism, so he is to Niccolo’s right!
Machiavelli also gave sound advice on budgetary matters: He advised the Prince to husband his country’s resources and avoid the need to load down his subjects with taxes: “A Prince of a liberal disposition will consume his whole substance (in sumptuous display) and, after all, be obliged, if he would maintain his reputation for liberality, to burden his subjects with extraordinary taxes, and to resort to confiscations and all the other shifts whereby money is raised. But in this way he becomes hateful to his subjects, and growing impoverished is held in little esteem by many.” Clearly, one of our President’s shortcomings is that he is a bigger deficit spender than anything Machiavelli would have tolerated.
Now, it is true that Machiavelli also suggests that a Prince, in order to maintain stability, must on occasion be aggressive, cunning, and willing to change direction; that because of the vicissitudes of leadership, and the many dissidents who would overthrow or undermine his administration, the competent Prince cannot be above fighting fire with fire. Sometimes that requires some deception, dissembling, and heartlessness. Such realism sounds completely practical to me, and does not in my opinion make Machiavelli an evil man. Knowing that most intellectuals and academics almost universally demand perfection in their design or evaluation of political and social issues , I can see why they denigrate the wise and balanced advice of Niccolo M. When you seek perfection in human affairs, no system will prove satisfactory, and you will seek in vain.
The failed “theory” of utopian socialism calls for perfect equality and happiness– and from that viewpoint, Machiavelli’s acceptance of an occasional need to play hardball appears to socialist dreamers as both deceitful and immoral. But, let’s look at how we are governed. In order to get ObamaCare passed by Congress, the administration gave huge exceptions to some to gain their vote. The supporters who are contributing a billion dollars to Obama’s reelection are primarily the nobles–the elite that Machiavelli warned Princes to avoid: “The demands of the nobles cannot be satisfied with credit to the Prince, nor without injury to others, while those of the people well may, the aim of the people being more honorable than that of the nobles, the latter seeking to oppress, the former not to be oppressed..” President Obama ignored this counsel, and instead, went for the Bailouts and Stimulus packages which were rife with payola to special friends and supporters among the financial elites of America. The sad truth is that the utopian socialists seek a perfect and unattainable world, and to force their theories into practice, they end by oppressing the people and favoring the few–the 1%’s who provide the money for electioneering.
My reading of Machiavelli indicates that Americans would be better off and freer if the President followed the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli than the precepts of his community organizer background. The academics and the Leftist radicals have given Niccolo a bad rap and are actually to his right in favoring the all-powerful State and its elites with their constant regulation, oppression, and taxation of the common people.