Ron’s #33: The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

“Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women. But when it is necessary for him to proceed against the life of someone, he must do it on proper justification and for manifest cause, but above all things he must keep his hands off the property of others, because men more quickly forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.” (Chapter 17)

If I wanted to run my own fiefdom, this would be my handbook, one written by an Italian almost as famously ruthless as Vito Corlene. Currently, my 10th grade students are reading excerpts from this, and I hope they enjoy/endure it. The essays can be pretty dry to our 21st century lives; the text is mired in 16th century historical records, making it difficult to understand at times.

Chapter 17 holds the juiciest parts, one that you should read for fun. This chapter contains the most famous line of the book, “Upon this a question arises” whether it be better to be loved than feared?…it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispossessed.”

As I read this, I kept imagining how recently political leaders would respond to Old Nick’s advice. How would George W. or Obama look if they followed some of his advice on how to treat citizens? I added an assignment with the reading that makes students write about advice to modern politicians. I’m eager to read what they create.

If I had some foresight, I would have ordered a book called A Child’s Machiavelli: A Primer on Power. The artist drew child’s pictures that apply Machiavelli politics to the elementary playground. Sounds fun!

About Ron 173 Articles
I teach English and government in Okinawa, Japan. I love reading theology and fiction, and my52books.com helps keep me accountable. Reading with three kids under 5 is a bit of a challenge, but I keep trying to find ways to read more. My favorites writers are C. S. Lewis, Flannery O’ Connor, and Raymond Carver.

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