Machiavelli’s The Prince has long been used and studied as a manual for those who are already in power or for those who wish to have power. Through rational thinking about political power, Machiavelli is the authoritative source on how one should lead and govern. To illustrate his points, Machiavelli uses many examples of leadership from his life and some from history before 1469. To many readers however these examples are not of relevance anymore because the examples are so dated. To bring the influence back into The Prince, we must put the work into a more modern context.
In chapter 16, Machiavelli debates on whether it is better to be liberal or stingy in governing. In a leader both of these traits can be either beneficial or detrimental to leadership. Liberalism, if stopped, can cause those who one governs to believe that they are now stingy. Liberality is most dangerous for those already in power. The French Revolution, some would argue, started because of this scenario. When the French government got into outstanding debt the aristocracy turned to the people to bail them out.
When the people were reluctant to this agreement with the noble classes, the middle class pleaded its case for economic reforms to help the government. When their requests were met, the people revolted.People live in the present and do not look to the past very well.
Machiavelli concludes that leaders must start out stingy and work their liberality to their advantage. One who is seen as stingy on moment can make one gesture and be thought liberal and gain prestige from those they govern. In chapter 17 of The Prince, the discussion revolves around whether it is better to be feared or loved as a leader. Although all princes should strive for both, Machiavelli concludes that it is much better to be feared than loved.
Many countries today use fear to control their population and rule effectively. Iraq’s current dictator, Saddam Hussein, has used fear to control his large state since 1979. The country is very afraid of him and for good reason.
It is common knowledge that anyone who would verbally or physically assault Saddam Hussein or his regime would most likely be executed. Many measures have been proposed to establish an International Court and try Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity.The U.S. House International Relations Committee describes the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein [as one that has] created an environment of fear and terror within Iraq and throughout the region, with its gross violations of international law and human rights.
The people of Iraq are subject to summary and arbitrary execution, torture, and repression of the freedom of speech. This description of the regime is exactly why Saddam Hussein has been able to maintain an iron grip on Iraq. When Hussein invaded Kuwait he put Machiavelli’s opinion that causes for taking property are never lacking, and he who begins to live on plunder is always finding cause to seize what belongs to others (Norton 1715) into action.
The allied forces rebutted in their need for secure oil because men forget the death of a father more quickly than the loss of the patrimony (Norton 1715) In the political climate in Iraq, if Saddam showed any love not behind the barrel of a gun, he would be removed from power expediently. Clearly for dictatorships around the world it is much better to be feared than to be loved. The chapter 18 assertion that men lie so therefore anyone may lie rings true today just as much as it did the Machiaveli’s time.All people will lie if it is advantageous to their current situation.
This principle is so common that it is not necessary to use examples to reinforce it. Later, Machiavelli states that men in general judge more with their eyes than by their hands; everybody is fitted to see, few to understand (Norton 1717). I think this idea rings true for today.
The Election of 2000 must have been the most glossed over one I can remember. The American population is prone to look at appearances rather than actual leadership abilities.The author has heard it something to the effect that I’m gonna vote for George W. because he looks like a guy I could go drink beer and fish with. repeatedly throughout the election. Human trust their eyes more than anything else, and sometimes put too much faith in what they think they see. And for all those who dissent they do not dare to oppose the opinion of the many.
(Norton 1717). In Chapter 25, Machiavelli discuses chance and fortunes role in leadership. He believed that chance was half of all actions.To be successful one must gamble with chance and just let go.
Being cautious towards chance means that one will waste all energy in staying safe and will not utilize his energies in actual leadership. The one that is bold and takes chances with fate is the most likely to succeed. I believe this view to be timeless.
People should use every opportunity to rise in life and fulfill their desires.Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince is a handbook for leaders that is timeless in its wisdom. While some of the points fare better for a modern era if put in the right context, others do well as is and convey their message without the need for modern examples. Bibliography Machiavelli, Niccoli.