By Daniel O'Connor
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) was the preeminent political philosopher of his time, whose immeasurable influence still resonates today, perhaps even moreso than ever. His book, The Prince, has remained as a very widely read book throughout the globe for the past century, and before. In fact, it was the advent of the printing press, which came to existence just before his time, which helped disseminate his political philosophy across Continental Europe into the hands of Kings, Queens and major philosophical figures. In modern times, although many people have not read his works or are even aware of his existence, it is the political philosophy of Machiavelli and his descendants which has permeated the mentalities of many Americans and citizens across the globe.
Machiavelli's worldview and writings were quite extensive and impossible to summarize in this brief article but a few of his main focal points are extremely relevant today and deserve re-examination by the American people.
In Niccolo's most well-known book, The Prince, a strong emphasis is placed on the need for The Prince (or the governing body) to abandon principles and act immorally on occasion in order to achieve a particular objective (or to maintain/expand power). The Prince constantly posits a view in terms of power which is not necessarily relevant to this article--the focus of this article is the notion of abandoning principles to achieve a desired goal or objective. This is unfortunately the sentiment that has not only become embodied by our "representative government" but also much of the population. Members of our government carrying the labels (R) and (D), along with members of the numerous vestigial federal bureaus that surround our National Capital, can be found guilty of this Machiavellian practice.
As according to The Prince, a leader must always protect his reputation and be willing to act immorally on certain occasions. "Immorally" can be defined as committing acts of brute force, aggression, deception or even large scale unjustifiable attacks. As seen during America's invasion of Iraq in 2002, most Americans can now all acknowledge that our government was guilty of Machiavellian tactics indeed, by deceiving the public and aggressively attacking a defenseless country through brute force. Afterwards, the American public hardly criticized the government, at all.
The American public's willingness to accept this invasive attack committed by our government is evidence that either: a) a large segment of our population is Machiavellian, or b) our government has complete authority and the people must accept whatever the government does without any repercussions from us, the people. Either one of the above scenarios is not a good sign of things to come. Are the majority of American citizens "Machiavellians" or will they eventually become fed up with the arbitrary decisions made by our government and scale back the haphazard political system they have created?
Another, more recent example of Machiavellian-style government abuse is the increased security measures at airports. Although the security measures are blatant violations of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, many of those who support the increased measures nonchalantly shrug their shoulders at this blatant overreach of Federal authority as they believe that "it keeps us safe"--in their view, the ends justify the means. Proponents of every constitutional violation, often use a Machiavellian justification for their stance.
Machiavellian tactics are by no means a rare angle played up by modern-day politicians but are in fact the norm among most members of our Legislative and Executive Branches. "That trillion dollars of taxpayer money was spent because if it wasn't there would have been a catastrophe." "We are deeper in debt than any other country in history because of dire circumstances." "The government passed the Patriot Act and now spies on citizens in order to keep everyone safe from terrorism." The list goes on and on without an end in sight to the reckless and out-of-control Machiavellian politicians in America. Meanwhile, The US Constitution does not provide our government with authority to engage in most of what it has been doing for many decades.
The constant disregard for The US Constitution essentially gives our government an open ticket to do whatever it wants without any obligation to the people. Many of those who disregard The Constitution consider it an antiquated document that is not fit for addressing "modern-day" problems. On the contrary, The Constitution was specifically written with the intention of addressing the largest "modern-day" problem--restricting an abusive and out of control government in order to protect individual liberty.
As citizens, our authority derives from The Constitution--not our "democratic rights", especially considering that recent US Presidents have acted in a much different way than the platforms that they campaigned on. If we vote for one outcome and realize a different outcome, how legitimate is our democratic authority?
To rest all of our confidence on politicians who abandon principles and disregard The Constitution in order to achieve their desired objectives is quite discouraging as a means to create a "change" in our political system. On the contrary, the nationwide disapproval for our current political system, coupled by historically atrocious economic conditions, is proof that the American people should return to The Constitution as an alternative option for correcting our political system rather than depending on Machiavellian-style politicians that have been running this country for so many decades.