Machiavellian: What’s wrong with today’s politics?

As seen by the huge number of citizens who chose not to pick up their votes, and those who chose to abstain from voting or nullify their vote in the last election, there is clearly something wrong with today’s political system.

To better gain a grip of what went wrong, one might choose to read extracts from various authors from the various epochs in history. When faced with the Renaissance, nobody can explain politics better than the Florentine Niccoló Machiavelli, in his short philosophical work ‘Il Principe’, written under house arrest after his banishment from Florence. This is considered to be one of the finest works of political philosophy, and Machiavelli himself is widely regarded as the father of modern political philosophy.

After a successful Republican coup d’état against the ruling Medici family, Machiavelli became a public officer in Florence’s Chancery. He was then sent as an envoy to France and the Papal States, where he gained a thorough understanding of politics within the courts of European rulers. As the Medici family regained power, they took Machiavelli and various other officials loyal to their political enemies to court, on the basis of taking part in the successful plot to overthrow the previous Medici ruler.

Whilst in banishment, Machiavelli became on admirer of Pope Alexander VI’s illegitimate son, Cesare Borgia, who had amassed various Italian lands for himself through conquest and a critical alliance with the French king; ‘The Prince’ was thus based on this character.

Cesare Borgia

Machiavelli argues that a ruler should be like a fox and like a lion. He should be cunning and strong to overcome internal and external opposition. Before assuming power, one must seem good, only wishing the best for the citizens, but when one assumes a position of power, one must forget all he has promised a rule with an iron fist. One must be feared without being hated, and should not meddle with private property, as it is easier for one to forget his father’s death than forget loss of property, which he had worked hard to obtain. One should also undoubtedly lie, and explain his actions in lies.

When faced with today’s politicians, one might see the prince’s reflection within them, and, unfortunately, today although probably few politicians have read Machiavelli’s masterpiece, one can undoubtedly say that their actions are Machiavellian.

But, one may ask, what should we do? In a way, apart from being guidelines to a successful, yet immoral, ruler, ‘ The Prince’ offers a warning to the general public; to know what power does to a person, and more importantly, to choose the right person for the job.

It is a pity that even though we live in a democracy, many choose to nullify their right and duty to choose who will lead them. We have surpassed Machiavelli’s absolutist regime of feudalism, so one should strive to choose the most suitable candidate for the job. If you did not vote in this election, do not worry, the past is the past. Look to the future, and think about what you have just read. It is your right and your duty. Next time, vote.

Written by: Gerard Zammit Young

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