We’re often appalled by how sly and dishonest many politicians are,
but we shouldn’t be. In moods like this,
we need to remember and read the works of Niccolo Machiavelli,
a late 15th century political advisor and political theorist
who argued that we shouldn’t think that politicians are immoral
他认为 我们不该因为政客撒谎 遮掩或耍手段
and simply bad for lying and dissembling and maneuvering.
A good politician, in Machiavelli’s remarkable view,
isn’t one who’s friendly and honest and kind.
It’s someone, however occasionally dark and underhand they might be,
who knows how to defend, enrich and bring honor to the state,
which is also an extremely important goal.
Being nice may well be a virtue in general,
but what citizens most need from their rulers is effectiveness,
which may well call upon some darker arts.
Once we understand this basic requirement,
we stand to be less disappointed
and clearer about what we want from our politicians.
Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469.
His father was a lawyer
and so Machiavelli received an extensive formal education
and got his first job as secretary for the city of Florence.
But, soon after his appointment, Florence exploded politically
and expelled the Medici family who’d ruled it for 60 years
and suffered decades of political instability and turmoil.
As a consequence, Machiavelli experienced a series of career reversals.
Over just a few decades, he went from being an important diplomat
to a semi-successful general, to an enemy of the state
tortured and then exiled when he Medici returned to power.
Although Machiavelli was rather a failed politician,
he can be remembered as a truly great man because of the two works he wrote
THE PRINCE, and THE DISCOURSES.
In them he attends to a central problem of politics then as now
that it is almost impossible to be both a good politician
and a good person in a traditional Christian sense.
Machiavelli proposed that the overwhelming responsibility of a good prince
is to defend the state from external and internal threats to stable governance.
This means, he must know how to fight
but more importantly, he must know about reputation
and the management of those around him.
People should neither think he is soft and easy to disobey,
nor should they find him so cruel that he disgusts his society.
He should seem unapproachably strict but reasonable.
When Machiavelli turned to the question
of whether it was better for a Prince to be loved or feared,
He wrote that while it’ll theoretically be wonderful
for a leader to be both loved and obeyed,
a Prince should always err on the side of inspiring terror.
For this is ultimately what keeps people in check.
Machiavelli Christian contemporaries had suggested that
princes should be merciful, peaceful, generous, and tolerant.
They thought that being a good politician was
in short, the same as being a good christian.
But Machiavelli argued differently.
He asked his readers to dwell on the incompatibility
between Christian ethics and good governance,
and particularly referred to the case of Girolamo Savonorola.
Savonorola was a dominican friar, a fervent idealistic christian,
who’d briefly come to be the ruler of Florence in 1494.
He’d come to power promising to build the city of God on earth in Florence.
He preached against the excesses and tyranny of Medici government.
and even managed for a few months to leave Florence
as a peaceful, democratic, and relatively honest state.
However, Savonorola’s success could not last
because, in Machiavelli’s view, it was based on the weakness
that always attends being good in a Christian sense.
It was not long before his regime became threat to the corrupt Pope Alexander.
whose henchman captured and tortured Savonarola.
Hung him in the center of Florence
and burnt the body before the eyes of all vengeful citizenry.
This, in Machiavelli eyes, is what tends to happen to the nice guys in politics.
Rather than follow this unfortunate Christian example,
Machiavelli suggested that a leader would do well
to make judicious use of what he called virtu (VIRTUE).
Machiavelli’s concept of virtu for politicians involves
wisdom, strategy, strength, bravery, and when necessary, ruthlessness.
明智 计谋 实力 勇敢以及必要情况下的无情
In fact at one point Machiavelli uses the deliciously paradoxical phrase ‘Criminal Virtue’
to describe the necessary ability of leaders
to be cruel in the name of the state,
and yet, still good as leaders.
Machiavelli provided some criteria
for what constitutes the right occasion for bit of criminal virtue.
衡量使用 不道德的德行 的时机
Any violence must be strictly necessary for the security of the state.
It must be done swiftly, often at night – counsel Machiavelli,
and it shouldn’t be repeated too often
lest the reputation for mindless brutality builds up.
Machiavelli gave the example of his contemporary, Cesare Borgia,
whom he admired as someone who knew how to be tough,
but not too tough that we might question the criteria Machiavelli used.
When Cesare conquered the city of Cesena,
he ordered one of his mercenary, Ramirida Okow,
to bring order to the region which Ramiro did through swift and brutal ways
Men were beheaded in front of their wives and children;
property was seized; traitors were castrated.
Cesare then turned onto Okow himself
and had him sliced in half and placed in public square
just to remind the town’s people who the true boss was.
but then, as Machiavelli approvingly noted, that was enough blood shed.
Cesare removed on to cut taxes, imported some cheap grain,
接下来 切萨雷实行减税 低价进口粮食
build a theater, and organized a series of beautiful festivals
to keep people from dwelling on unfortunate memories.
The Catholic church banned Machiavelli’s works for 200 years
because of the force with which he yet argued that
being a good Christian was was incompatible with being a good leader.
But even for atheist and those of us who are not politicians,
Machiavelli’s insights are important.
He writes that we can’t be good at (or for) all things,
not only because of our limited ability and resources,
but also because of conflicts within moral codes.
Some of the fields we choose,
if not politics then perhaps business or family life
may require what we evasively called ‘difficult decisions’.
by which we really mean ‘ethical trade-offs’.
We may have to sacrifice neo-Christian visions of kindness
for the sake of practical effectiveness.
We may have to lie in order to keep or relationship afloat.
We may have to ignore the feeling of certain employees to keep a business going.
And that, insists Machiavelli, is the price of dealing with the world as it is,
and not as we feel it should be.
The world has continued to love and hate Machiavelli in equal measure
for insisting on focusing our attention on the uncomfortable tension
between two things we love and always want to have together
but perhaps can’t – effectiveness and niceness.
We’re often appalled by how sly and dishonest many politicians are,