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Would you prefer a Machiavellian president?

April 18, 2011

By: Brendan Lapinski

Before I start I want to you to assume that our president is completely honest and frank with us and he only acts morally in everything he decides for our country and would never deceive us or other countries. Now, with that out of the way, would you prefer a president who followed a Machiavellian way to ruling (for lack of a better word)? In my opinion I think our country would be a little better off that way. If Barack Obama did what needed to be done and didn’t have to rely on the Senate or the House to get things done or at the very least slow bill or law passing down to a snail’s crawl, then I think our country would be in a better spot than it is now. We would still have watertight ways of checking his power and make sure he didn’t get too out of control but if we skip all the formalities of the processes then this country would get stuff done much faster than it does now. We would see results faster and, in my opinion, create a better country to live in where a president might actually follow through on his promises and agenda if not slowed by legal formalities. I may be speaking blasphemy here but it’s my opinion and I’m interested to hear what you think or point out any blaring mistakes I made, which I’m sure I have because I’m not too political savvy. But leave a comment below and let me know.

  1. rlwulf permalink
    April 18, 2011 2:03 PM

    I understand the general point you are trying to make, but the fact of the matter is that there are too many problems with this seemingly simple concept. This idea would truly only work if a leader was meticulously chosen and truly acted in the interest of all of the public. Certainly not to make any accusations about our own president, but just generally with human kind as a whole people tend to be self interested. It is for this reason that problems then begin to arise when granting full authority to one person because there can be no guarantee that all the decisions they make will be with the interest of the entire state in mind.
    While I’m certainly not trying to suggest that the system of checks and balances we have no is the most effective or efficient, I would like to argue that it is better than the alternative. At least in this set up, there is a more likely chance that all political executions are done so through the approval of a group of people who are (supposedly) working in the interest of the entire state, whether than resting that entire responsibility on one person.

  2. alexqhe permalink
    April 18, 2011 6:11 PM

    Seeing all the recent happenings in Washington, such as bills that Obama has been pushing for being repeatedly checked by Republican power, really underscores the issue that you’re referring to. It almost seems like American politicians are spending more time trying to control their political power rather than actually performing their duty to the American public.

    With that said, in an ideal world, I believe that Machiavelli’s Prince – one possessing virtu, with the ability to effectively grapple with fortuna – would be much more effective than the current American system of government. This leader’s ability to make both easy as well as uneasy decisions that would ultimate benefit the greatest amount of people (reminiscent of Michael Walzer’s “Dirty Hands” here) would result in greater effectiveness than having a myriad of politicians all grappling over issues that mainly boil down to political control.

    Of course, this assumes a lot: for one, that the Prince is intelligent enough to make the correct decisions with the lives of millions in his hands. One of the main reasons why American democracy relies on so many different politicians is because, as J.S. Mill argued, man is not infallible; putting all of our faith into one leader might simply not be the wisest choice, despite how qualified such a leader might be. As seen in the cases of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, sometimes such an authoritative figure – even those that might have previously had small flashes of brilliance – can end up completely devastating their respective countries with one wrong move or one wrong policy. Judgment is subjective, and even such a Prince could only be human.

    I’m not quite sure I understand your statement that “… we would still have watertight ways of checking his power and make sure he didn’t get too out of control.” Isn’t the entire point of endorsing such a tyrannic prince to give him the unrestricted ability to do whatever it takes to achieve the ends that he believed in?

  3. April 18, 2011 6:20 PM

    I believe that although this seems ideal, not everything is being taken into account in this blog. There are many different viewpoints that are represented in today’s society. By giving our President all of the power to decide on topics, how would he be able to please everyone. There is rarely an issue in the country that everyone can agree on. By giving Obama the ultimate power, then only his views would be taken into consideration. If you got rid of the Senate and the House of Representatives, it would feel as if you are giving up democracy to some extent. How would all the different ideas be heard if nobody was given any say besides the President. It seems almost impossible to find someone who can make decisions that will truly please everyone in a country. Our current system of government allows for everyone to be heard and by taking away power from everyone but one person, most of the things this nation stands for would be thrown out the window.

  4. John D'Adamo permalink
    April 18, 2011 9:26 PM

    I agree with some of Machiavelli’s principles, including the necessity to have a wise leader who has noble goals. Unfortunately, Barack Obama and the power structure that surrounds him is anything but Machiavellian. So we engage in the hypothetical where he would lose that and rule based on what he felt was the best for his people. So what watertight check would he have against him, exactly? A Marxist-style violent revolution? Unless he did something to piss off the military (which he wouldn’t, as they would be part of the small group of people it would be Obama’s job to truly please under this hypothetical centralized dictatorial government), good luck going against the U.S. military.

    What I do agree with in your post though, Brendan, is that it would be great if Obama could follow through on his promises and agenda- unless he decides those promises and agenda are no longer in the best interest of the people, and changes his mind. And Kings and dictators have changed their mind rather often when they have absolute power (Henry VIII and his initial support of Catholicism vs. his later support for his Catholic-free Church of England when he wished to marry Anne Boleyn shook up the cultural ethos of England in those days, no doubt). It is still, however, a really sweet hypothetical.

  5. Pierre Gerondeau permalink
    April 18, 2011 11:50 PM

    I think this is a really interesting idea for a post, because it is cool to think about how different our country would be if we had a different system of government, such as a Machiavelli ruler. However, although I think that the Machiavellian system of governance is interesting, and maybe possible depending on the circumstances, I would not want a president to be Machiavellian in the United States. It is better if the people have a say in the government, which would be hard to do with a Machiavellian ruler. Also, although there are times when you need a decisive leader to make a tough decision very quickly, such as in war, you can’t always run a country this way because you have to constantly think about the big picture. Unless the leader is someone like Jack Bauer from “24,” who makes quick but virtuous decisions without always listening to others’ opinions, it would be hard to pull off this concept in the United States.

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