A paragraph from the op-ed titled "Why Machiavelli Still Matters," published in the NYT, marking the 500th anniversary of Machiavelli's letter announcing the existence of his work, "The Prince."
The authors, John Scott and Robert Zaretsky, professors of political science and history, respectively, tweak Americans for their moralistic demands for virtues like honesty and generosity.
The proper aim of a leader is to maintain his state (and, not incidentally, his job)... [even] pursuing what appears to be vice [to achieve] security and well-being.Even in a constitutional republic? And did Obama receive only contempt because he was honest or because he was dishonest? It seems to me that the contempt arises from our discovery of the dishonesty, not from his punctilious pursuit of virtue. Also, you have to take into account that Obama was elected — he did not seize power — and he was elected because people saw him as a repository of virtue. How does someone who was given power because of his perceived virtue retain power when a lack of virtue becomes apparent? How can he shore up his power by looking even less like the person people thought they had elected?
What would Machiavelli have thought? He'd have to do quite a bit of rethinking to make that Cesare Borgia stuff into advice for an American President.