Politicians: Machiavelli’s Prince? Or Our Own?
A prince, by Machiavelli’s standards, feels empowered by his divine right and through his virtu so that he feels a need to achieve glory. To fulfill this goal, Machiavelli suggests that his prince reaches his glorification through improving the success of his state. He points out that a prince will inevitably rise with his state and glory may be achieved through the success of his state as it is inherent and will come automatically as a state becomes empowered.
Many people automatically view politicians as having lower moral standards than the average person, and makes assumptions about political leaders being driven by a hunger for power and glory, much as Machiavelli’s prince is.
“Let me begin with a piece of conventional wisdom to the effect that politicians are a good deal worse, morally worse, than the rest of us (it is the wisdom of the rest of us)” (Walzer 162).
However, I feel apprehension when is comes to being presumptuous about anyone, politicians included. Some may suggest that it is being optimistic to an unhealthy extent, but I feel I must ask: Isn’t it possible that politicians are merely hungry for the common good? In my (difficult) attempt to see the good in everyone, I have come to ask myself whether or not it is plausible that politicians have no alternative motives like power or glory. I have concluded that it is indeed possible that a politician might simply want what is best for the greatest majority. We too often forget the real reasons politicians exist: to represent us. I believe there is a voice of the masses that politicians hear and attempt to convey as best they can. They can never be totally objective, but when politicians must make difficult choices, aren’t they concerned with how the vast majority of the general public would act? And do they not then act accordingly, on our behalf? After all, that’s the true utility of politicians: they speak and act for the masses; they face the difficulties and issues we would all detest to confront.
Machiavelli’s prince makes his way along a predetermined path of glory, ultimately concerned for him self and driven by his own selfish motives. Our politician, our prince, pulls the weight of everyone along a path of his own making which he believes will suit most everyone best. He guides us towards a place we might all live best and when confronted with an issue, he represents us in handling it the way most of us would. We only ever choose for ourselves, and our prince must choose for us all – in doing so sacrificing the contentment we too often take for granted. It may be impossible to know for sure what the cognitive functions of a politician’s mind are. However, I like to imagine that not all or even many of our leaders are defined by Machiavelli, and that they really are doing a service through committing themselves to the common good.