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.
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.
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.