Sunday, May 3, 2009

May 3: Why Machiavellian? (Vol. 36, pp. 7-17)

Today is Niccolo Machiavelli's birthday, who was born this day in 1469. Today's reading is from the opening to his book, "The Prince," which remains one of the best how-to books on politics nearly five centuries after it was written.

So, how does one become a prince? Machiavelli writes that you either inherit a power base, or you create one. When people want to better their condition, they are always ready to find a new leader. He reminds us that "he who is the cause of another's greatness is himself undone, since he must work either by address or force, each of which excites distrust in a person raised to power."

In other words, one cannot keep power unless you have a united following and have all your potential rivals accounted for.

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