More than 480 years ago, Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince was published. It established a system of governance influential still today. His ideas were available before thinkers such as Rousseau and Locke. Men who believed that government derived its just powers from the consent of the governed. Machiavelli, unlike Rousseau and Locke, did not suggest government of the people, but government were power was centralized and secure in the hands of an elite few. His ideas, for example, led to the rise of France as a world power under the leadership of Louis XIV, arguable one of the most successful monarchs in European history. Today, Machiavelli’s ideas are not as influential as they were with former monarchs. However, some of Machiavelli’s ideas are arguable still very influential in certain contexts today.
In his book, Machiavelli emphasized the importance of separating good leadership qualities from a virtuous character. In the Prince, his intention was not to answer what constitutes good moral human behavior, but what make a good ruler. One of Machiavelli’s main points is to show virtuous character, while not necessarily being virtuous if it allows you to maintain power over your principality, “Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.” [Machiavelli, The Prince, Ch. XIX].
Machiavelli, however, does suggest that ruling a principality should not, and cannot be a one-man job. He highly encourages choosing good ministers, this, he says can say a lot about the character of a ruler. By choosing worthy ministers, you show your intelligence because of the men there are around you. However, Machiavelli advises that a ruler know the difference between a good idea and a bad one. A ruler, Machiavelli, says must make sure to assert his authority with his ministers to have only good ideas implemented and not the bad ones. Rewarding your ministers, making them dependent upon you, can do this “And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful.” [Ch. XXII].
In chapter XXII Machiavelli also suggests not putting yourself in the hands of an advisor/minister completely. Machiavelli very accurately describes human nature, he suggests that when a minister begins “thinking more of his own interests than of yours, and seeking inwardly his own profit in everything, such a man will never make a good servant, nor will you ever be able to...