The Prince

The Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli\'s The Prince examines
the nature of power and his views of power are still somewhat in existence
today. I\'ll discuss this in this essay, emphasizing the following theses.

Machiavelli discusses power over the people, dictatorial power, and power
with people, shared power. While it is possible for power with to attain
greater prevalence in society, it will not completely eliminate power over.

In The Prince, Machiavelli discusses two distinct groups of people, the
political elite, including nobles and other princes, and the general public.

Today in the United States, the first group, the political elite, includes
political leaders, religious leaders, business leaders and the leaders
of strong lobbying groups. The composition of the general public has changed
little from Machiavelli\'s time.

Machiavelli concentrates on relations between
the prince and the political elite. He claims that ambition and dictatorial
power drive most nobles and princes. A prince must act with dictatorial
power in order to maintain his position. Machiavelli assumes that shared
power will not be effective with nobles, since "whether men bear affection
depends on themselves, but whether they are afraid will depend on what
the ruler does" (Machiavelli, p.60-61). Since the nobles are unforgiving
and greedy it would be dangerous if not downright suicidal for a prince
to rely on their good will.

Equally important, Machiavelli states that
a prince, a political leader, has different concerns than the general public.

For a prince personal actions, which would be considered immoral or unvirtuous,
may save lives or help the prince\'s country. In this way a prince is not
immoral, but instead acts with a morality different in nature from the
general public. Machiavelli gives several examples of this. Miserliness
is considered a fault. Yet, a miserly prince "will come to be considered
more generous when it is realized that his revenues are sufficient to defend
himself against enemies that attack him, and to undertake campaigns without
imposing special taxes on the people" (p.56). Likewise, starting a war
is considered an immoral act by many. Yet, a prince should not allow troubles"to develop in order to avoid fighting a war for wars can not really be
avoided, but are merely postponed to the advantage of others" (p.11). Avoiding
war may cause more suffering among the people than starting war. For example,
many believe that World War II could have been avoided, saving tens of
millions of lives, had England and France not pursued a policy of appeasement
towards the Germans.

While Machiavelli emphasizes power over
in relations between the political elite, he discusses a different kind
of power in the relations between a prince and the general public. Machiavelli
notes that a prince can share power with the people, since a prince can
trust the people much more than he can trust the nobles. Nobles "can not
be satisfied if a ruler acts honorably but the people can be thus satisfies,
because their aims are more honorable than those of the nobles are: for
the latter only want to oppress and the former only want to avoid being
oppressed" (p.35). The people are not unforgiving and greedy so the prince
can place more trust in the people. Since the public can be trusted, the
prince can empower the people. An empowered public will protect the ruler
rather than overthrow him. Machiavelli suggests providing people with power
in terms of arms, since "when you arm them, these weapons become your own"
(p. 72). In this way power is an increasing resource, sharing power with
the people can result in greater power for the people and for the prince.

Finally Machiavelli notes that inherent
power of the public, which exists despite the dictatorial power that any
prince exercises. When discussing fortresses, he states that "the best
fortress a ruler can have is not to be hated by the people, for if you
possess fortresses and the people hate you, having fortresses will not
save you" (p.75). Machiavelli does not disregard shared power as a potentially
successful way to govern, but only notes that dictatorial power can not
be used exclusively in governing.

Even in relations with the general public,
which can include shared power, the prince can not act in ways that might
be considered virtuous for the general citizen. People expect leaders to
act differently than themselves. Machiavelli notes that people are interested
in appearances and results. A leader must seem resolute and moral to the
people, and show positive results from his leadership. The most important
thing for a leader to do is to avoid being hated or despised by the public,
which could occur if a prince took people\'s property. For the public, more
than the form