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.

1 comment:

Tina said...

I agree with you. I thought The Prince was an overall entertaining and educational read. I don't know as much as I should about politics, so every little bit helps.

I just read another post on Peterman's Eye about Machiavelli's book as well...thought you might enjoy:
http://www.petermanseye.com/interesting-times/politics/370-the-prince

Cheers!