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Machiavelli Essay, Research Paper


The Morphing of Machiavellian Ideas In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries the common people relied on the princes of the day for protection. These princes, therefore, exercised absolute power over their state. They had a duty to protect the people and their land, and a self-preserving instinct to protect, and cultivate, their own power. However, modern democratic forms of government have taken the burden of protecting people and land off of the prince and put it on the people, whether in the form of a true democracy or a representative government, such as The United States enjoys. But still remaining is the self-preserving instinct of the prince, or politician. To the princes trying to get and keep power in the tyrannical institutions of Machiavelli’s day, his advice may have been advantageous; however, to modern government, his advice is more applicable to the interrelations between politician and politician, and less toward politician and common people. Interrelations between politicians in modern government can sometimes get complicated. When negotiations between two major leaders break down the result can be war, even in modern government where the decision whether or not to go to war is largely decided by the people or their elected representatives. Machiavelli says that “a prince must not have any other object nor any other thought, nor must he take anything as his profession but war” (35), however, this has no place in modern government. For instance, in America, the president is not allowed to declare war without the consent of congress. This is not to say that he should not be concerned with national security, but that this must not be his main avenue of concern. Furthermore, a modern leader need not be completely consumed with the strategies of war, he is allowed, and afforded by the people, certain advisors to council him in these decisions. A modern leader, therefore, needs to be concerned more about the political ramifications of war. Such as when America entered into Desert Storm under President Bush. President Bush allowed the military leaders to decide the course of military action, for the most part, while he met and worked out differences with leaders from other countries in attempts to keep peace with countries outside of Saudi Arabia. In times of war, soldiers must never trust the enemy, and must also, if necessary, deceive those around them to attain a goal he or she believes to be cause-worthy. The same is true in the interrelations of politicians in today’s modern government. The political campaign field can be thought of as one of battle. The opposing forces are made up of political parties, or even opposing politicians of the same party, facing one another in a campaign or debate. Machiavelli says that ” the princes who have accomplished great deeds are those who have cared little for keeping their promises and who have known how to manipulate the minds of men by shrewdness ” (43). To understand the application of this theory into modern government, the separate political parties must be viewed as a single politician. The modern politician, whether it be morally right or wrong, must, in essence, lie to achieve office. These lies are called “campaign promises” in political lingo. Campaign promises have been abandoned so often that the common people do not expect them to be kept. These promises are made because of the self-preserving instinct of the politicians. For example, President Bush is now remembered for the words: “read my lips no new taxes .” However, taxes were raised and another “campaign promise” was broken. The political parties make similar promises to the people to gain support, and those promises are just as likely to be abandoned without a second thought. The interpretation ideas of Machiavelli have, indeed, morphed with the change in governmental structure. Some of his ideas have fallen to the wayside, while some live on as reasonable strategies for any leader. As modern government grows, and the interrelation of politicians becomes more complex, Machiavelli’s ideas will change over and over. However, the decision to have a Machiavellian government or not, now rests more largely in the hands of common people, an idea Machiavellian could not have understood.

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