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A recent comment questioned a post I made about the morality of Machiavelli‘s principles, as against what Jesus taught and practised. These are very basic issues of political morality, and seem very relevant to patterns we’re seeing today in America, so here’s the comment in full along with my response.
Missing Jesus – Replaced by Machiavelli
Here’s the comment:
“…Machiavelli was not some evil enemy to democracy…”
You obviously do not understand the principles of Machiavelli. Being Machiavellian does not mean wanton cruelty. He actually discourages “excessive cruelty,” as the people will come to despise the prince.
You cite “the common good” as an anti-Machiavellian concept; however, Machiavelli cites the common good as the only reason to employ cruelty. As Machiavelli sees it, the common good is the establishment of order, for without that people are basically evil.
Machiavelli was also a staunch supporter of republican form of government, but he felt that at times of crisis, a stong central leader was needed. Our founding fathers agreed with him in this respect by consolidating executive power in the hands of one man. The Federalist Papers agrue this is needed for swift and efficent responce to immediate threats to our nation.
Machiavelli was not some evil enemy to democracy that some ill-informed elitists make him out to be. He was simply a man who felt the common good was the greatest good, and if a ruler must utilize some methods which would be considered immoral by some, so be it. He was are great political thinker, who was correct about many aspects of human nature. Unfortunately, like most great thinkers, including Jesus, Plato, Hobbes, Marx, etc…, his words have been grossly misunderstood by ignorant people.
www.emachiavelli.com – a great site with a true interuptation of Machiavellian thought. respond to email@example.com
Here’s my response: “…the ‘Machiavellians’ … worked together to get Jesus executed…”
1. The list from Ledeen well represents the behaviors and attitudes of Machiavellianism, both as coached by M. himself, and as practiced by the Bush administration (with coaching from Ledeen). I have to assume it is no accident that I hear more defenses of Machiavelli lately, given the dishonesty, manipulations, and bloodiness of the Bush regime.
2. Tyrants often talk about the welfare of the people and present themselves as the ones best qualified to oversee that welfare. To put those words into practice as one’s driving value is a very costly thing, and arises out of a very different world-view and moral system.
3. The list I quoted describing the Jesus of the Gospels means Jesus is disqualified from or incapacitated for Machiavellian strategies. (“Nowhere in the New Testament is there an image of the human Jesus that is compatible with attitudes of hubris, hedonism, envy, arrogance, acquisitiveness, self-aggrandizement, hostility, or violence. Jesus is everywhere associated with faithful obedience toward God and meek, compassionate, self-emptying service toward other people.”)
4. So this is a Christian and Gospel issue. The “Machiavellians” of 1st century Jerusalem are the powers-that-be who worked together to get Jesus executed. And his own take on that was that it would result in the kind of devastation that the Romans inflicted on Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (Luke 19)
There is a real choice here. These are not easy issues, but we need to be aware of the choices we are making.
From The Prince, Chapter 2:
“I will not speak here of republics, because I have discussed them fully elsewhere. I will deal only with principalities, and following the order described above, I will show how those can be governed and maintained.”
In other words, The Prince is a manual about how to keep dictators in power. Why then do we find it being used to defend the Bush administration?
I don’t have a Pope; I have a direct relationship w Jesus Christ.
Visitor, you’re absolutely right, it’s not my job to question another person’s relationship wtih God. Oddly enough, I wasn’t actually thinking of a particular individual when that weird idea popped into my mind. I was thinking of why so many Christians have such a different idea of Christianity than I do. It’s almost like we are practicing different religions that have the same name. It is a bit unsettling.
For example, I still believe the ‘foundational precept of Christianity’ is that God loves us and that we do not have to pass any legalistic test to qualify for his love. It’s okay with me if you believe something else; I’m not your Pope. 🙂
Watch out bookaholic; questioning one man’s relationship with God is dangerous and not our place. That’s between the person and Christ. I think Bush is a believer, but that he is misguided in some of his beliefs. But I cannot say for sure because I’m not Christ and I do not know Bush’s heart as He does. I do know that Bush and the Reps aren’t 100% pro-life, which is a foundational precept of Christianity; all life comes from God. And I also know that the Dems are definately not not 100% pro-life. So this leaves me with two major political parties who are not Christ-centered. As a result, 40 million Gen-Xer’s and Gen-Y’s have lost their lives without even a fighting chance.
Wow, so lack of order is what makes people evil? I never knew that! That must mean that when order is imposed on them by a strong ruler, all those evil people will become. . . . good? Let’s try that and see if it works. If it doesn’t, and all we get are more prisoners, well, oops, back to the drawing board.
Another thing that really surprised me was finding out that our founding fathers really wanted a strong ruler. What I learned in school was that the founders developed a system of checks and balances among three branches of government, precisely so that all the power would NOT be concentrated in one person’s hands. I must have gotten one of those famous bad educations from the public school system.
I’d like to set aside the sarcasm and say that I agree totally with Larry: tyrants have a long tradition of rationalizing their tyranny as being good for people. And now that rulers also have to appear to be born-again Christians, it puts an even greater burden on their ability to rationalize. Or maybe it’s actually possible for a person to have a conversion experience in which Caesar, not God, gets the allegiance of the ‘new man,’ but somehow, maybe out of habit, God-talk still comes out of the person’s mouth. Maybe the person himself doesn’t know what really happened.