Machiavellian Rule is Inherently Un-American

Allow me to preface this post by unequivocally stating that I believe Niccolò Machiavelli to be one of the most brilliant political theorists of all time as well as a master thinker on autonomy.  His theories have had profound political impact on numerous leaders of regimes and governments throughout the course of history.  Machiavelli enriches our understanding of governance at large through his radical approach.  He teaches us that leaders cannot govern based on a unanimously agreed upon set of values but rather, that like it or not, constitutive power must dominate.  However, it is this credence which makes Machiavellian ideology run in direct contrast to the principles on which American government stands.  Machiavelli refutes the value of political pluralism in his articulation that one leader shall determine virtually all law.  Political pluralism is at the forefront of America’s democratic two-party system.  Therefore, while Machiavelli certainly has something to teach us about our systems of policymaking, we, as democracy loving Americans, must make sure that we keep a safe distance from the exact execution of governance Machiavelli prescribes.

Obama-Machiavelli

Here, President Obama’s head has been edited onto the body of Nicolò Machiavelli. Many of the President’s detractors accuse him of being Machiavellian due to pushing his own political agenda rather than what it is clear the country wants. Critics hold up the President’s implementation of his new healthcare plan as a prime example of this as polling and Senatorial elections in Massachusetts seemed to suggest the country may not be ready for the overhaul the president was prescribing.

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Protagonist and politician, Francis Underwood, makes these comments about democracy on the Netflix series, House of Cards. Real American viewers thoroughly embrace his deceptive, Machiavellian approach to politics rather than explicitly condemn it.

Machiavellian ideals may not jive with the American political structure but this is not to say they have never permeated the system.  In the history of America as well as numerous other western democracies shaped in a similar creed, there have been vast instances of abuse of power and implementation of Machiavellian tactics.  The maneuvers we see employed in America today are rooted less in the idea that it is better to be feared than loved and more in attaining and preserving power at all costs paired with implementation of personal political agendas.  Some Machiavellian aspects of the modern American political landscape have even become commonplace and generally accepted by the public without revolt.  Today, politics connotes corruption and greed.  Television is a medium in which this is highlighted.  Viewers thirst for and thrive off shows that display Machiavellian influence in American politics rather than react with disgust and outrage.  Examples of these programs include but are not limited to House of Cards, Scandal, and Homeland.

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This is a meme of Niccolò Machiavelli, satirizing his views about the greater importance of being feared than being loved.

Machiavellian tendencies unfortunately often appear in more than just fiction.  Political officers regularly create earmarks and false personas to advance their personal agendas and ensure their positions of power.  Failed attempts at Machiavellian politics include instances of political corruption being exposed such was the case with President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

In order for the United States of America to remain the beacon of liberty and democratic Western ideals across the world, it must take every measure conceivable to blot out Machiavellian styles of rule.  Fair elections, open honesty with the electorate, equal representation for all citizens; these values are integral to American politics.  Prevention of Machiavellian ideology influencing American politics is larger than any one politician or cultural phenomenon.  This battle will wage on and America’s jurisprudence will be perpetually challenged to live up to what it claims to be.

The Prince is a difficult piece to grasp and after my initial read I found an incredible documentary on Youtube which really enriched my understanding of the piece.  It’s worth checking out to better your understanding.  Part one appears below.

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2 thoughts on “Machiavellian Rule is Inherently Un-American

  1. I think that rejecting all of Machiavelli’s principles is jumping a little too hastily to one conclusion. If Machiavelli’s principles of rule are “Inherently Un-American”, then none of them should be present in our politics. However, I can think of historical instances where his “ends justify the means” mentality can be applied. For example, President Truman’s decision to drop the Atom Bomb on Japan can be seen as extremely immoral, killing thousands and thousands of civilians with the push of a button. But since this action saved even more American lives, it is justified.

    It also seems to me that you are saying all Machiavellian ideals should be eliminated from our politics. I think that this is simply too idealistic; our political system is too expensive to run without a little Machiavellian corruption. Yes, I too believe that dirty politics is bad, but I accept that some unfair play is sometimes needed to justify a final result that helps the general public.

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  2. I liked here how you didn’t fully agree with Machiavelli. It seems ever since reading “The Prince”, people have been posting about how great Machiavelli is. And while I agree that he was a brilliant political theorist, there are some things he theorizes that just wouldn’t work in contemporary America. I like how you raise that issue in this post. I also like your Barack Obama-Machiavelli picture. I think it’s hilarious.

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