Machiavelli’s Advice to America
Leaders of the world are not just a regular breed of individuals. In present days, the United States citizens elect representatives through a very precautious procedure; people know if the wrong person were to get into office they could cause a downfall of a nation. Not all of Machiavelli’s principles of a leader are strongly practiced in today’s world, yet when revised many compare incredibly to the way the American government is governed.
In The Qualities of the Prince, Machiavelli discusses a number of traits that he believes a prince or ruler of his time must have to be safe, successful, and loved by his people. Machiavelli believed in exploring both sides of an issue, “the art of war and the art of life, liberality and stinginess, cruelty and clemency, the fox and the lion” (36). Most of his instances have something to do with war, he is very repetitive in many of his believed traits and he stands firm with them by giving many examples. By reading The Qualities of a Prince it is very easy to assume that Machiavelli was brilliant in his thoughts during his time, this leaves one to ponder the thought of how successful these traits would be in modern American politics.
Americans elect leaders with certain distinct qualities, Machiavelli’s beliefs on leaders characteristics don’t totally relate to our expectations. He does mention that he doesn’t recommend tyranny, meaning one ruler have all the power or use it too his advantage. In American government there are no tyrants, all the power is distributed into branches where decisions are made on agreement on that of which will help the American people the most. The majority of Machivelli’s characteristics of a good leader would not get a man elected in the United States, in his time that wasn’t applicable because you were born a leader. Machiavelli wrote of it to be good to be generous but said that a reputation of it will harm you, stating that nothing will use itself up quicker than generosity (41). The candidates of today present themselves on generosity, explaining what they have done in the past and what they plan to do in the future. Machiavelli also suggests that a morally good person wouldn’t last long in a high office. Presently you can’t be elected unless you have morals, the President of the United States of America and his family our examples for the whole nation to look at, if they appeared to have no morals what could someone expect from our nation as a whole?
Machiavelli was right on task when talking of things a leader must do to maintain office, he believed in a lot of principles of which leaders today use. He states that a leader must desire to be merciful, not cruel. This relates to your people looking up to you, not running away from you, Machiavelli also says “a prince must not worry about reproach of cruelty when it is a matter of keeping his subjects united and loyal” (43). In America today this can be related to the death penalty, some Americans see it as cruel but in reality it is necessary to maintain a fear in those that wish to do others harm.
Reading The Qualities of a Prince you will find that most of Machiavelli’s distinct qualities that mentioned concern war. Machiavelli writes that a leader must never be idle in peaceful times, meaning the leader should make their power known to all, also stating “in peacetime he must train himself more than in time of war; this can be done in two ways; one by action, the other by the mind” (38). This quality is very unique and true, used by not only the United States but also by any structured government. American leaders show this by having a strong militia, with bases spread throughout the United States, appointing experienced commanders with the mentality and experience to lead and train new soldiers.
Preparation for all obstacles is the center point for most of Machiavelli’s qualities, he stresses intensely on the fact of keeping your peoples faith while doing so, “for a prince must have two fears: one, internal, concerning his subjects; the other external, concerning foreign powers” (48). But this faith is not just given to a leader, it is earned through experience “a prince who does not understand military matters cannot be esteemed by his own soldiers, nor can he trust them” (Machiavelli, 38). America is known to be the elite government power on earth at this time because our past leaders have been well educated and ready for any circumstance. Our government has had its share of dramatic blows from other nations or ethnic groups but it has successfully bounced back up not showing weakness, giving truth to Machiavelli, “have a mind ready to turn itself according to the way the winds of fortune” (47).
Although most of the traits that Machivelli holds to be true involving warfare and preparation our still true today, one is outdated but easily revised. Machiavelli believed that in his time it was much safer to be feared than loved. This is still true in today’s world except Machiavelli was referring to the people of the prince’s kingdom; American leaders relate this to countries. Fear in a society accomplishes nothing and will cause an unsuccessful economy in present times, in the past it was essential to maintain a small sum of fear to not be overran.
American politicians have somewhat mirrored a number of the qualities mentioned in Machiavelli’s essay. A unique trait that is possessed by many of Americans great leaders of the present and especially the past is war experience. Leaders take pride in our military and as Machiavelli explained, they know people would much rather follow a person that would fight next to them than one that wouldn’t. Although American leaders have not and would not recently stand toe to toe with other soldiers while they were in office, most volunteered and when needed fought courageously, gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge for future occurrences. Exemplifying courage and wit tremendously is a leader of the past, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Fighting in World War Two, Kennedy was a lieutenant on a PT 109. One night aboard his ship at sea, it was rammed by a Japanese destroyer causing enough damage to sink the ship. Kennedy dragged a wounded sailor for four hours to land, earning him the Navy and Marine Corps medal for Gallantry in Action. Anyone willing to fight for America would respect and be willing to follow and listen to a man with a background of Kennedy for these reasons, exemplifying one of Machiavelli’s qualities.
Leadership is a tremendous responsibility; although this is obtained by few in America the outcome and decisions made effect millions. There are many guidelines that a leader must follow to be successful, the studies one might go thru to do so would be tremendously improved in reading Machiavelli’s The Qualities of a Prince.