22 October 2008

The Prince

This weekend on our family vacation to Colorado I had some time and finished reading The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli. I appreciated Machiavelli's logical and straight forward approach to the subject of becoming and remaining a prince. His arguments were clear and concise which made the book very enjoyable to read.

As I read I could not help but thinking of Utopia, by Sir Thomas More. Machiavelli would argue that the Utopian society would not last long because a mercenary army would not suffice to keep the country safe for very long. This led me to wonder how their society would work if the people had to defend themselves. Their society would require a standing army. I think this would still work with the other principles of their society. I would expect they would require service in the military. They would focus on teaching their soldiers skills of physical strength and skill. Many of these skills could be utilized in their future professions. No one would remain in the military forever, but all would be available if needed. The older solders would teach the younger ones until their time to leave the military was at hand. In this way, their military supports society, but is not a profession in itself. This may not be the most efficient military, but it might suffice for their needs.

I disagreed with at least one theme presented in the book. Machiavelli writes, "For a man who wants to make a profession of good in all regards must come to ruin among so many who are not good. Hence it is necessary to a prince, if he wants to maintain himself, to earn to be able not to be good, and to use this and not use it according to necessity." I can certainly see his point. If everyone around you is not good and you are to rule over them, you also must perform acts that are not good to gain control of them. You must, of course, do some of both so that you gain control while at the same time you gain their respect and servitude. While this line of reasoning is sound, I disagree in two regards. First, you should never disregard your principles because of the actions of others or because of circumstance. Second, I don't believe that the evil of the people is an immutable fact. Machiavelli did not have record of King Benjamin. The way King Benjamin dealt with the problem of wickedness was to convert all of his subjects to the gospel of Christ. This allowed him to rule without fear of the people.

Overall, I enjoyed the book a great deal. I learned a bit about the science of politics, which is an important thing at this election time. It allowed me to consider how our nation, as well as other contemporary nations, handle power and security.

01 October 2008

Pointing at myself

There has been lots of blame passed around about who is at fault for the current economic problems in America. There is one group that no one seems to be looking at. That group is the general citizenry. It seems that politicians won't point at the masses because they would no longer be politicians. The media won't point at the masses because people would quit listening to them. Economists won't even point at the masses.

As a people, we are too focused on having things, and having more of them. We are constantly wanting to buy more things, even if we don't have enough money for them. We want better and nicer things even though what we have would suffice just fine.  BusinessWeek has written a few articles that explain some of the problems with our over zealous consumerism. It is interesting to note that the last article I linked to was published about two years ago. Michael Mandel concluded in one of his articles by stating, "Americans attempted to maintain the growth rate of living standards after 2000, even after income growth slowed for many people and real wage growth turn negative." In other words, we continued to spend money as we always had even though we were making less. Lots of things contributed to the current economic problems, but I think much of the problem does lie with us.

Personally, I am glad the price of gas has sky rocketed and the price of homes has plummeted. I hope these things are a bit of a wake up call for us. I know it has given me a chance to look at my finances and reprioritize a few things. It has also helped me look at what I can do to be less wasteful. I think in general as a society we have been living at a level beyond our means and it is time to get back to reality. Greed, lust, pride, and envy have been leading this country too long. I think it is time to get back to caring and sharing. Perhaps the single best cure for the current state of the economy would be for everyone to take a little time and money and set them aside for those who are less fortunate. I think that would give everyone a little better perspective. This new perspective would in turn decrease our desire to have more things for the sake of having them, thus allowing us to bring ourselves out of the current, self created, debtors prison in which we all currently reside.