How Modern-Day Politicians Compare to Machiavelli

For my Modern Thought course, we are studying the societal hierarchy of Florence within the reign of Lorenzo de’Medici and Niccolò Machiavelli.

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Lorenzo de’Medici was the ruler of Florence from 1513 to 1519. During his reign, he facilitated and encouraged the creation and sponsorship for the arts, helping to spearhead the Italian Renaissance period. Lorenzo was known as The Magnificent because of his strong leadership skills.

Machiavelli, on the other hand, was immersed in his own political agenda to obtain power. Throughout the book,The Prince, Machiavelli reveals himself to be an innovative yet cynical politician.

Studying this period of Italian history may serve for some as a manual for maintaining power regardless of the normative ethical perspective. It also provides in-depth examples from past rulers that lost their power due to their mistakes.

As a modern reader and thinker, it is important to consider how these rules still apply in our daily lives. Every man is out for their own and will go to great lengths to ensure their survival. The only difference is that today, the pen is mightier than the sword.

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For instance, Machiavelli explains that a ruler should be careful when delivering punishment. Otherwise, the people can plot a bloody vengeance, “If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance”. This powerful quote comes to show two things: one is that, according to Machiavelli, it is acceptable to injure someone. The second aspect is to always ensure your own safety at all costs.

Machiavelli Rules that 21st political leaders follow:

  1. If you can’t be both loved and feared, choose fear. Affection is fickle, but the fear of punishment is constant.
  2. Study the greats, study history, study politics, strategy and most of all, study war.
  3. Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life's artwork, and you must craft it
  4. Only keep your promises when it is beneficial to do so. It’s okay to break them when times change, or the need to keep them has gone.
  5. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less.

Another principle Machiavelli held was to deal with future problems immediately to prevent wars or surprises in the future. This way, there is no threat to the safety of your kingdom and authority to hold power. This correlates perfectly with President Obama. He minimized the United States’ involvement in certain wars and conflicts due to his ability to address issues correctly. His tactics helped maintain harmony among nations, thus extending the duration of his presidency. According to Foreign Affairs, President Obama came into office determined to end the seemingly endless war on terrorism. Obama pledged to make his counterterrorism policies more nimble, more transparent, and more ethical than the policies pursued by former President George W. Bush.

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