The Power of Machiavelli’s The Prince

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The Power of Machiavelli’s The Prince

Nowadays, it is politically impossible to commit to paper a “training guide” for leaders. There are innumerable detractors to any possible stance or strategy a leader might adopt. As a result of this, all “training” must take place behind closed doors, far from the prying eyes and ears of the news media or the public. But this has not always been the case.

Niccolò Machiavelli was brave enough to give the leaders of his day a how-to guide. In this work, The Qualities of a Prince, we are given a point-by-point description of what a leader should do to effectively lead his country. Machiavelli explains that, because leadership is (obviously) a position of command, “[war] is the only profession which benefits one who commands. ” (p. 33) He goes on to say that, in order to ensure peace, a leader must always be ready for war. He cites a multitude of past, present and even fictitious examples of military leaders who lead peaceful countries. He was writing, however, for the leaders of a heavily taxed, war torn area. His Italy was under constant attack from both French and Spanish soldiers, and at the same time under attack from the inside (the Medici family, Italy's current ruling family) by high taxes that funded the wars. His Qualities is considered by some to be the best manual for pulling a country out of a bad situation much like the one Italy was in. This work was not necessarily meant for a country that is already at peace. The ruthlessness of the leader described in Qualities would almost surely cause dissent among the people of the peaceful country.
Machiavelli chose many important points to bring up in his discussion on the necessity of military prowess. A leader must “…learn the nature of the terrain” (p. 36) that he is meant to protect. Machiavelli probably discusses this because the Medicis were not aware of the advantage that the French and Spanish were gaining by conquering the northern, mountainous regions of Italy. Militarily, higher ground is a much sought after advantage. The leaders of the land could in no way get to know land that was no longer their own, and so, could no longer see the advantages or disadvantages of the land. What they must now do, is gain all knowledge of the land left to them, so as not to loose it.
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