Skip to comments.Quotes: Machiavelli on Liberalism and Meanness
Posted on 10/09/2008 6:44:48 AM PDT by Loud Mime
Quotes: Machiavelli CONCERNING LIBERALITY AND MEANNESS
Note the distinction between the terms; either you are liberal or you are mean.
This is according to the view of the citizen; either you give to them, or you do not.
Some politicians have gone to great lengths to portray the rich as another type of citizen,
almost an enemy of the people. In doing so, they now have
the masses believing that taking from the rich is a noble cause; especially if they are to receive
services from this legal plunder.
COMMENCING then with the first of the above-named characteristics, I say
that it would be well to be reputed liberal. Nevertheless, liberality
exercised in a way that does not bring you the reputation for it,
injures you; for if one exercises it honestly and as it should be
exercised, it may not become known, and you will not avoid the reproach
of its opposite. Therefore, any one wishing to maintain among men the
name of liberal is obliged to avoid no attribute of magnificence; so
that a prince thus inclined will consume in such acts all his property,
and will be compelled in the end, if he wish to maintain the name of
liberal, to unduly weigh down his people, and tax them, and do
everything he can to get money. This will soon make him odious to his
subjects, and becoming poor he will be little valued by any one; thus,
with his liberality, having offended many and rewarded few, he is
affected by the very first trouble and imperilled by whatever may be the
first danger; recognizing this himself, and wishing to draw back from
it, he runs at once into the reproach of being miserly.
If you are to give, do not give from your own treasury; find ways to take from others.
Make sure the citizens know it is because of you that they are receiving
their gifts from the treasury.
Therefore, a prince, not being able to exercise this virtue of
liberality in such a way that it is recognized, except to his cost, if
he is wise he ought not to fear the reputation of being mean, for in
time he will come to be more considered than if liberal, seeing that
with his economy his revenues are enough, that he can defend himself
against all attacks, and is able to engage in enterprises without
burdening his people; thus it comes to pass that he exercises liberality
towards all from whom he does not take, who are numberless, and meanness
towards those to whom he does not give, who are few.
Here we see the necessary division of the citizens. If a leader is to give
to some, he must first take from others. If a leader is going to take from
a class of citizen, he must establish his cause as a noble act. History has
shown that the best way to accomplish this feat is to convey to your
people that they are victims of the group from whom you wish to take.
Those people are rich because you are poor ..etc.
We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have
been considered mean; the rest have failed. Pope Julius the Second was
assisted in reaching the papacy by a reputation for liberality, yet he
did not strive afterwards to keep it up, when he made war on the King of
France; and he made many wars without imposing any extraordinary tax on
his subjects, for he supplied his additional expenses out of his long
thriftiness. The present King of Spain would not have undertaken or
conquered in so many enterprises if he had been reputed liberal. A
prince, therefore, provided that he has not to rob his subjects, that he
can defend himself, that he does not become poor and abject, that he is
not forced to become rapacious, ought to hold of little account a
reputation for being mean, for it is one of those vices which will
enable him to govern.
If you are liberal (giving) to your people, you must be mean to those
from whom you take. Machiavelli advises the leader not to worry about it.
And if any one should say: Caesar obtained empire by liberality, and
many others have reached the highest positions by having been liberal,
and by being considered so, I answer: Either you are a prince in fact,
or in a way to become one. In the first case this liberality is
dangerous, in the second it is very necessary to be considered liberal;
and Caesar was one of those who wished to become pre-eminent in Rome;
but if he had survived after becoming so, and had not moderated his
expenses, he would have destroyed his government. And if any one should
reply: Many have been princes, and have done great things with armies,
who have been considered very liberal, I reply: Either a prince spends
that which is his own or his subjects' or else that of others. In the
first case he ought to be sparing, in the second he ought not to neglect any
opportunity for liberality. And to the price who goes forth with his
army, supporting it by pillage, sack, and extortion, handling that which
belongs to others, this liberality is necessary, otherwise he would not
be followed by soldiers [lawyers, bureaucrats]. And of that which is neither yours nor your
subjects' you can be a ready giver, as were Cyrus, Caesar, and
Alexander; because it does not take away your reputation if you squander
that of others, but adds to it; it is only squandering your own that
The greed of those who wish to receive from the leader is without limit.
But the amount in the treasury has its limits; already our nation is in great debt,
a debt that threatens to grow my amazing amounts each day because of our
current financial crisis.
And there is nothing wastes so rapidly as liberality, for even whilst
you exercise it you lose the power to do so, and so become either poor
or despised, or else, in avoiding poverty, rapacious and hated. And a
prince should guard himself, above all things, against being despised
and hated; and liberality leads you to both. Therefore it is wiser to
have a reputation for meanness which brings reproach without hatred,
than to be compelled through seeking a reputation for liberality to
incur a name for rapacity which begets reproach with hatred.
We do not see the meaness now; but weve seen it through his
spiritual advisors. Who will be the target; who will be the benifactor?
The word liberal had a different meaning in Machiavelli’s day.
Please let me know if you would like on this low-volume list
How so? I’m interested in today’s definitions.
Our founders were liberals. The word was cooped in the 40’s by socialists.
Machiavelli also had a dictum which is appropriate to remember. “You must see people as they truly are rather than as you wish them to be.”
That's a problem. Most FReepers want to see the people as patriotic citizens, capable of rational thought.
I see them for what they truly are: Useful Sheep.
We should heed the same advice concerning our politicians
Yes, we do have the sheep. But we also have those who understand what it takes for a republic to function. Here you have the division between the two political camps.
The Prince isn't an "evil work" or an "immoral work", it is a clear, unemotional treatis on human nature.
If a leader does "x" it will be percieved as this by those under his rule.
If a leader does "y" it will be percieved as that by those under his rule.
The above excerpt describes plainly why class warfare works.
“Our founders were liberals. The word was cooped in the 40s by socialists.”
Aye, and now they refuse to admit to being liberals or socialists, they are “Progressives”. As soon as that word comes to be hated they will come up with another label and none will admit to being “Progressives”. A massive dose of truth serum might compel them to admit to being traitors.
Gee, did you ever get the feeling that Bill Clinton knew this book by heart?
You bet he did, and we better know it by heart as well. The methods of ruling detailed by Machiavelli work. They worked in 15th century Italy and they work today.
It is ironic how the term "liberal" has meandered over the years. What he actually means by the term here - it's a translation, of course - is a ruler noted for largesse. That isn't actually too far from what it has come full circle to mean in American politics.
In the meantime, though, it went from this rather feudal interpretation through the linguistic turbulence of the Renaissance, Machiavelli's time, to the relatively calm waters of the Enlightenment, wherein it was used to describe a body of thought incorporating free markets and political structures based on the will of the constituents rather than the Divine Right of Kings. In Europe it retains that meaning still to a great degree.
In the United States it has gradually moved to an interpretation more reminiscent of the one in Machiavelli's time - a wise, paternalistic State from which flows both wealth and moral and physical suasion. One doesn't have to look very far to see a Medici or a Sforza in the current Democratic party, its current standard-bearer a Lorenzo the Magnificent, and on our part gratitude for a florin or two thrown to the crowd.
Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,
And cry ‘Content!’ to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions.
I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Protheus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.
Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?
Tut, were it farther off, I’ll pluck it down.
The greatest modern disciple of Machiavelli is Saul Alinsky.
Thanks for the ping, LM. Everybody should read “The Prince”.
Machiavelli was the father of modern political science. He has been and continues to be vilified by ignorant people who have never read his discourses or the prince. Reading him in Italian is even more inspiring as his prose, though not as good as Dante’s is clear and concise and compact and to the point. You need only to read those two works and you will understand human nature. Machiavelli viewed our fellow human beings with a characteristic detachment of an inanimate rock. He wasn’t interested in making value judgments or instilling upon his fellow man idealistic qualities that were not true to their nature. He wasn’t interested in social engineering, he knew human nature cannot be changed or molded. The founders of our republic were quite versed in Machiavelli and understood him best. They also were keen observers of human nature. Thus they designed a constitution to moderate the passions and the ;likely bad judgment we have as human beings. Machiavelli would have thus admired Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin et al.
Saul Alinski was an aspiring Human engineer and budding petty dictator who was a legend in his own mind. He knew nothing of Machavelli and Machaivelli would have seen him for the manipulative fascist that he was. See my post #19.