The thing about Machiavelli is that although I don’t want to agree with what he is saying I do, wholeheartedly. The one key difference between Machiavelli and Plato is that Plato sees men as they ought to be, while Machiavelli sees men as they are, and works with that. I think if one wanted to learn how to understand the flawed mindset of mankind in order to dominate it this would be the book for them. Although the general theme of this book (power at all costs) made me feel uncomfortable, Machiavellis insights on politics, loyalty, and human priorities were depressingly accurate. He knows it is “easy to persuade people of something, but difficult to change their minds” He knows that men fear punishment more than they honor obligation. Etc. Etc.
He knows all this is “just so” and therefore works it into his plan for an ultimate ruler. The truly uncomfortable part is when you realize the whole doctrine is only trying to continue this idea of self interest. What I mean is this: Machiavelli encourages his ruler to only look after themselves. Even when he encourages this leader to do something for his people, or to be noble and to make agreements, it is only ever to strengthen his position as a ruler. In doing this, Machiavelli seems to forget that the role of a ruler is to ‘look after” his people. Similarly, killings and deceit are just another part of his system that maintains power. Slaughter and generousity are really no different from each other in Machiavellis eyes, they are each just a tool you can use to achieve the same goal. He recommends you have selfless advisors, but these advisors are here to serve you best. There seems to be more focus on simply staying in power and being “great”, rather than doing something significant for your people.
Because of this focus on the individual ruler and individual success, it is obvious that no two good rulers could coexist. If both were as good as Machiavelli hopes, they would expand across continents until they met each other, and according to Machiavellis ideas, one would always eventually find a way to get the upper hand over the other. That’s just the “way it works” So what Machiavellis plan or rule book would ultimately lead to is a massive dictatorship over a massive empire. World domination even. If a populace was that big, would all the rules of a perfect leader still apply? Or would some of them erode on themselves and begin to act the other way? Power is a scary thing.