American Government In Contrast To Lao-Tzu And Machiavelli Peter Ryan Welch 382-92-3692 February 6, 2001 Dr. Allegra Blake, ENG 201 American Government in Contrast to Lao-Tzu and Machiavelli In comparing and contrasting the governmental philosophies of the great thinkers Lao-Tzu and Machiavelli, I have found a pleasant mix of both of their ideas would be the best for America today. Lao-Tzu’s laisse-faire attitude towards the economy, as well as his small scale military is appealing to my liberal side, while Machiavelli’s attitude towards miserliness which causes low taxes appeals to the right wing. These great thinkers contradict the popular saying “all great thinkers think alike.” They have several ideas, such as taxes, that are the same, while other ideas, like the involvement of government in citizens’ everyday lives are totally opposite. I shall start with the ideas of Machiavelli, then move on to Lao-Tzu’s, and finally a comparison and application into American life.
Niccolo Machiavelli believes in a strong government. The leader should be strong and feared. I believe he gets this idea from the fear of God; no one is supposed to question God because he is so feared, and in the same sense, no one should question a strong leader. Machiavelli realizes that the leader should be feared, but not hated. A hated leader will probably be killed in a rebellion.
One also can not be loved. Any compassion towards your citizens will make them believe you are weak, and they will rebel. He thinks a very strong military is necessary at all times, and that powerful arms should be available and in hand. This idea is similar to that of right wing America and our friends, the National Rifle Association, who believe assault rifles are America’s pastime. The nation should always be prepared for war, and should always be searching for new lands to conquer.
This is much like our cold war with the USSR and the new lands to conquer would be anything Communist. These wars should go on without high taxes. High taxes as well cause rebellion. Case in point: the high taxes levied against America by the British, as well as other strong factors, led to the American revolution. He believes a government should be miserly with its own goods.
That is not to say you can’t steal the goods of conquered countries and be liberal with them. Try not to be too generous, however. A quote I once read says “remember to pillage before you burn.” This reminds me a lot of the ideas of Machiavelli. According to him, one should say one thing just to make the people happy, and do another. He believes one should only keep his word if it is for the benefit of the nation.
Six words: “read my lips, no new taxes,” come to mind. George H.W. Bush said these words, but acted differently. Machiavellian? Maybe. Bush shortly after had the largest tax hike in the nation’s history to try to save us from the worst recession since the Great Depression. I believe this is the sort of thing Machiavelli is talking about.
Do whatever you can to keep the people happy, but when it comes down to it, what makes them happy may not be best for the state as a whole. He believes that people are generally bad and greedy, so they will take whatever you give them. Lao-Tzu is not exactly polar opposite of Machiavelli, although he is close. He believes that man in a state of nature is generally good and not greedy. What makes man greedy is overemphasis on material objects, and if you let a man go free in nature, he will be good. Lao-Tzu believes in a state of peace; war is not necessary.
Lao-Tzu thinks decent men detest weapons. Weapons are only needed when entirely necessary, in a state of defense. This is sort of a liberal point of view of war. He states “violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon itself,” therefore, any attack upon another country will result in an attack upon yourself. As far as the scale of government, he is rather conservative and would side with the American Republican party, believing a smaller, more unnoticed government is better.
When the Master governs, the people Are hardly aware that he exists Next best is a leader who is loved. Next, one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised. (Lao-Tzu 20) He believes a good government should have simplicity, patience, and compassion. Lao-Tzu believes in moderation.
Much like the teachings of the Bible, this ancient philosopher believes that too much of anything can be bad. He shares the belief of Machiavelli that too many taxes are bad. Too many taxes makes your people go hungry. Unlike Machiavelli’s policy of conquest of other nations, he believes a leader should stay within his country and govern his people only. Lao-Tzu is more liberal in social matters, while in economic and political matters, he is more conservative.
Machiavelli is a little more conservative in about every matter. A mix of both of these theories is the best for the United States. There is always a danger if we are too liberal, or too conservative. Something that candidates for any office in the United States in past years have shot for is middle of the road politics, appealing to both liberal democrats and conservative republicans. Now, if those politicians would only keep their promises from their election campaigns, it would be more like Lao-Tzu.
But not keeping promises is something Machiavelli would do. All in all, both of these gentlemen have characteristics that would make leaders, and their handbooks I believe would definitely help American leaders today. A mixture of their war policies would be beneficial, for there is definitely no need for war, but a national defense is necessary. Right now the nation’s military is about the size it needs to be. We need the teaching of Lao-Tzu to keep George W.
Bush and his wacky cabinet members in line. Right wing America would love Machiavelli and his kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out sort of attitude. The defense industry would be booming with a Machiavellian leader in the White House. The American government is already great, however, because it does have the power to balance out, so no strong leader, whether it be Lao-Tzu or Machiavelli, would be able to have too much power. When it comes to welfare, I don’t believe either man really supports it. Lao-Tzu’s laisse-faire attitude leads me to believe the people should be able to take care of themselves. Machiavelli doesn’t believe taxes should be high, and you shouldn’t really spend the nation’s wealth. In addition, Machiavelli doesn’t seem too warm hearted or caring for his people.
This country does need a form of welfare, and neither of these men support plans to help it. I do not believe Machiavelli’s honesty policy would go over too well in the United States. Government Essays.