Born on this day, Italian philosopher Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (1469-1527) is best known for writing The Prince (1513), a guide on how to rule a nation.
The Renaissance advice on power and control, the infamous "end justifies the means" philosophy, inspired leaders from Napoleon to Hitler to Kissinger.
"It is much safer for a prince to be feared than loved," Machiavelli said.
A minister in the overthrown Florentine Government, Machiavelli faced a republic of corruption and greed. Forced out of office by the new regime, he wrote to offer Lorenzo de' Medici, the new ruler, advice on how to stay in power.
What makes a good prince, is not necessarily what makes a good human being. "Politics have no relation to morals," he said.
While the political writers of the Middle Ages looked at politics idealistically, within the framework of religion, Machiavelli sought realism and observed human nature and the innate evil of men.
As the first person to study objectivity, he concluded, "It is better to be feared than loved, more prudent to be cruel."
Condemned by Pope Clement VIII, The Prince shocked contemporaries. His critics missed that Machiavelli simply came up with a desperate solution for desperate times.
As he said in the book's conclusion, his goal was "to advise a great prince who will correct the horrible social ills which tear my beloved country apart and rebuild us into the conquering force we once were."
Years later, English Lord Chancellor Francis Bacon wrote, "We are much beholding to Machiavelli and others, that write what men do, and not what they ought to do."
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