Sunday, 24 February 2013

Machiavelli describes 21st century Britain


The weakness of the princes of the present day, caused by an effeminate education and want of instruction, makes them regard the maxims of the ancients as inhuman, or impossible of application.

To usurp supreme and absolute authority, then, in a free state, and subject it to tyranny, the people must have already become corrupt by gradual steps from generation to generation. And all states necessarily come to this, unless... they are frequently reinvigorated by good examples, and brought back by good laws to their first principles.


A want of proper judgement sometimes causes men, who are incompetent to defend themselves, to engage in war for the defense of others.


For in nature as in simple bodies, when there is an accumulation of the superfluous matter, a spontaneous purgation takes place, which preserves the health of that body. And so it is with that compound body, the human race; when countries become overpopulated and there is no longer any room for all the inhabitants to live, nor any other places for them to go to, these being likewise all fully occupied — and when human cunning and wickedness have gone as far as they can go — then of necessity the world must relieve itself of this excess of population by one of those three causes [pestilence, famine and inundation]; so that mankind, having been chastised and reduced in numbers, may become better and live with more convenience.

It is necessary then (as has been said) for men who live associated together under some kind of regulations often to be brought back to themselves, so to speak either by external or internal occurrences. As to the latter, they are either the result of a law, that obliges the citizens of the association often to render an account of their conduct; or by some man of superior character arises amongst them, whose noble example and virtuous actions will produce the same effect as such a law.


When once the people have taken arms against you, there will never be lacking foreigners to assist them.

Every student of ancient history well knows that any change of governments, be it from a republic to a tyranny, or from a tyranny to a republic, must necessarily be followed by some terrible punishment of the existing state of things.


I think, and ever shall think, that it cannot be wrong to defend one's opinions with arguments, founded upon reason, without employing force or authority.


A prince, therefore, must not mind incurring the charge of cruelty for the purpose of keeping his subjects united and faithful; for, with a very few examples, he will be more merciful than those who, from excess of tenderness, allow disorders to arise, from whence spring bloodshed and rapine; for these as a rule injure the whole community, while the executions carried out by the prince injure only individuals.

[A prince] must encourage his citizens to follow their callings quietly, whether in commerce, or agriculture, or any other trade that men follow, so that this one shall not refrain from improving his possessions through fear that they may be taken from him, and that one from starting a trade for fear of taxes; but he should offer rewards to whoever does these things, and to whoever seeks in any way to improve his city or state.

Let no state believe that it can always follows a safe policy, rather let it think that all are doubtful. This is found in the nature of things, that one never tries to avoid one difficulty without running into another, but prudence consists in being able to know the nature of the difficulties, and taking the least harmful as good.

It is impossible to establish a perpetual republic, because in a thousand unforeseen ways its ruin may be accomplished.

It will be found that some things which seem virtuous, if followed, lead to one’s ruin, and some others which appear vices result in one’s greater security and well-being.

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