Machiavelli is renowned for “The Prince”, a book of advice to a prince of Tuscanny in the 1400’s that advocated draconian tactics and deceit; where Hanibal and Ceasar, were successful for being kind to their POW’s, and forgiving to the conspiratorial. (Though to be sure Ceasar did die from a conspiracy), he did rise swiftly through politics. Yet his brightness more equivocably shows in his work “The Discourses”, as M. cites many, mainly Roman Republic examples, of history, and offers an opinion; yet it is easy to disagree with him.
For instance, in Rome’s earliest days, when it was just beginning to expand and among the smallest of proud states, it came across a nearby kingdom, and it was ready to go for war, but you have to understand, war back then didn’t result in total oppression, or long war. It was about hegemony, and the erosion of native culture, like our current excursion into the carribean, rather than the elimination or removal of tribes, like we did to the indian, or any elimination of the political system to another tribe, which like Rome, had a system of a Senate, and King or chief executive. So what you have to understand here, and pointedly not have been taught, is that back then, in central Italy, all the tribes, The Sammites, The Etruscans, The Vulcans, they all had Senates and a usually short-term leader. Though they were tribal, they still had a Senate, which mainly the rich families were eligible for.
So the Romans come up against one small nearby Kingdom and the nearby Kingdom’s King in all his wiliness said, “your best three against my best three”.
Well, that makes a lot of sense to me, because you seriously limit casualties, yet Machiavelli advises against such for the reason you trust your entire kingdom to three men, and your entire kingdom is far more diverse then three men. So this is an example of Machiavelli not caring about casualties, or how mmild the Roman yoke could be, for I believe they go on to share power together and merge, but with each faction having concessions and rights to a ground floor of political hegemony.
Why would Machiavelli make such a big deal about the survival of one kingdom, particularily since Rome never loses? There may be a mathematical equation maximizing defense through a diversity of military representation, but then you don’t consider casualties; which is a calloused Machiavelli, so they say, from his years of imprisonment, I believe; yet you may have fun arguing the other side of Machiavelli’s conclusions.
Lets play through and check out if this form holds up in another one of Machiavelli’s short chapters. Here he speaks about how while Historians call the people inconstant, the people, to Machiavelli are far more constant than a prince.
Now to understand his debate here, you have to understand the people of antiquity had more say than they do now. Since each tribe might own land the size of a county or a few, the people were close enough to each other to rise up and effectively protest bad leadership. The government wasn’t so far away and out of touch back then, and smaller, and less intimidating, as well. The tribal practices too, must have given a fulcrum against the way of History.
Now right off, you can see how each Prince is different from another, and yet the people maintain relatively the same temperment and culture. However specifically, to ascertain why Historians complain of the people as fickle and inconstant, in that in antiquity, they were often convinced, by passion-inducing orators, to punish leaders judged poor, and then lamenting that they needed and could have used that punished leader, down the road.
Machiavelli cites Manilius as a famous example of someone found dangerous, and truly was, and so was sentenced to death; yet, upon ceasing to be a danger, the roman people, who popularized generally conservative notions of the people, images as such, desired Manilus back in power; wanted his brand. And Livy, describing how the nephew of Hiero was overthrown, describes the masses as either subservile, or arrogantly domineering; and it is true, Sicily is of complex enough charactor, that the people tend to move and factionalize politically in several different ways, because north africa out of Carthage, and Rome, competed over three punic wars, to be Sicily’s friend, because back then Syracuse was a prestigious, famous city; London, Paris Rome, back then, was Rome, Syracuse, Carthage.
First Machiavelli says, you may blame political forces, for the people flip-flopping in their opinions. Though the people make decisions grounded in a concern regarding their own safety in those warlike times; whereas the Senate and Ruling Classes, may allign with the wrong side, and so be sent to death, by the winning side, or their own people, so as to disavow with their leaders. After all, Saddam Hussein and George Bush caused the Iraq war, not the American People, or The Iraqui People; and back then, there was a mantra to saying so; The Iraqui people would have garnered Saddam, given him to the U.S., and then said, “now please leave us alone”, or something.
Then Machiavelli asserts, “few princes have been good, many have been bad”. Again, with small princedoms so common for so many millenium, it is hard for me to say, not knowing many, if the bad to good prince ratio is 7:1 or 20:1 etc. Lets look at our presidents, and leaders in general. Not many take us places, many are not good enough to not quickly be unstable disposition in times of trouble; They are vulnerable. And yet while none might have been superlative; surely none have been so bad? None have improved life, yet the history of politics seems nothing about improving life; and yet the great majority of them, have not had their country destroyed, though we certainly do worry; things have stayed constant for the people, and our rulers have flitted around the home plate of charactor and fineness.
Because so many kings have been flaky, in a bad way, Machiavellie concludes Kings are inconstant compared to the people. Now our people in America, by this mark, have too little power to be effectively in constant; while our presidents, are generally conservative and unchallenged enough, to be fairly constant; but in ancient times, kings had lots of power, enough to cause problems, and because the people had more power and stood up to them better, the kings felt enough pressure to use their power unwisely.
Machiavelli goes on to say that kings subject to laws are not included in this debate. The kings of Egypt and France, and presidents of America, are so by law, they are constant; and yet the Kings od Egypt created a world that greatly told its citizens what to do; abolished the family unit, for state effectiveness and deployment.
The masses, mirror the king, the quietness to the reign of pharoahs, presidents, and Kings of France, mirrors a quietness of their masses; because politics are not subject to the attitudes of the people, or the king, but Law. While a constitutional convention every 15 years might grant dignity to the people and work on laws fitted for our times; it would factionalize, and render the people able to wield more power, and power and government more required to use power in return.
The Roman Republic, as reported by its historians, emphasized a moral people, who matched an uncorrupted government. It helps though to remember Livy’s story of Manilius, who became dictator, for Rome, in times of trouble, solved their trouble, through a short-term dictator; yea, one thing their history does formulaicly show, is that increasing centralized power, not allowing democratic debate, is what it takes, and how to get through, the crisis-times of your country. I mean over a century they might have to do a Dictator, three times. This Manilius they picked, to my recollection, refused to resign, when the crisis ended, refused to step down, at the end of his alloted term, and conspired against or conspired with, these ten judges selected to help him rule. So the people killed him, and then missed his brand of evil galvanization, and further proved how unsettling events can disturb the psychology of the people.
Machiavelli says that if the people are in power they can be gracious and good; but that a prince will be more likely to whinny and try to shake off objections to power, and thus a prince is less constant, who contemns the laws upon him.