“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.” Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (1513)
December 2013 is dedicated to one of the greatest theorists of politics in history: Niccolò Machiavelli, whose masterpiece ‘The Prince’ came out on December 10, 1513—500 years ago.
In an op-ed in the New York Times John T. Scott (University of California) and Robert Zaretsky (University of Houston), and authors of “The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume and the Limits of Human Understanding.”, explore the legacy of ‘The Prince’.
“Yet Machiavelli teaches that in a world where so many are not good, you must learn to be able to not be good. The virtues taught in our secular and religious schools are incompatible with the virtues one must practice to safeguard those same institutions. The power of the lion and the cleverness of the fox: These are the qualities a leader must harness to preserve the republic.
For such a leader, allies are friends when it is in their interest to be. (We can, with difficulty, accept this lesson when embodied by a Charles de Gaulle; we have even greater difficulty when it is taught by, say, Hamid Karzai.) What’s more, Machiavelli says, leaders must at times inspire fear not only in their foes but even in their allies — and even in their own ministers.”
Historian Quentin Skinner on Machiavelli’s “The Prince” (1513)