Machiavelli’s America

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The Other Prince

 

Recently I picked up Philip Bobbitt’s The Garments Of Court And Palace: Machiavelli And The World That He Made after hearing the author interviewed on the John Batchelor Show.

I’ve written sympathetically of Machiavelli elsewhere but I’ve only explored the topic superficially.

Bobbitt’s book has been, to put it mildly, a revelation. Unfortunately, this revelation has been mainly due to the fact that the Florentine has been so badly framed to begin with. Bobbitt sets out to correct the record in his succinct little work.

 

Machiavelli’s “Ideal”

 

Machiavelli had a vision for Florence and Italy, a new order, but as he articulates this vision in The Discourses and The Prince he does so from a unique standpoint: “I shall depart,” he writes, “from the practices of other writers who depict an imaginary world and shall instead describe the ways princes actually behave and how the world reacts.” Out with utopias, in with experience and history (35)! Realism (dealing with the world as it is) trounces idealism (dealing with the world as it should be).

But to what end does he seek to ascertain lessons from the past?  Continue reading

The New American Stratification

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
George Orwell, Animal Farm

           

As a huge fan of irony, the shutdown of Bernie Sanders attempt to speak at a Seattle event last month was simply delicious. The fact that he started off by saying “Thank you, Seattle, for being one of the most progressive cities in the United States of America,” only to have the microphone commandeered seconds later, was simply too perfect. I highly doubt Bernie recognized the connection between his statement and the following events which left him standing impotent, lost, and confused in the background as his ridiculous fedora-wearing goon engaged in a shouting match. This the kind of interaction which likely happens most often in the playgrounds of America’s schools. Replace the microphone with a shiny red bouncy ball and the picture becomes clearer. I’m sure this is old news for many people but I don’t really prescribe to the media news cycle. I laughed repeatedly while rolling the video back and re-watching the mayhem unfold. Sanders, the champion of every little guy and gal was finding himself on the receiving end of “sticking it to the man”, and it simply could not compute. How could the most progressive candidate for president be the enemy of minorities and the downtrodden? The answer is simple: if people choose to identify as victims, then there is no limit to whom they will ascribe to title of victimizer. There is no clear line in the sand, and that’s the mistake that many progressives make: assuming they are off limits.

Continue reading

Moral Atrophy, Ethics, and the Panopticon

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I have always found the idea of the Panopticon wildly fascinating as a practical concept and an exercise in game theory. For those unfamiliar, it was an architectural design drafted by Jeremy Bentham in the late 1700’s. The general concept is that an observer sits in the center of a ring full of columbarium style niches, and in each cell is one prisoner or worker. (There were various proposed applications) The inmates are unable to see the observer, so they must assume that they are being watched at every moment. He called it “A new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.” The observer cannot look at every inmate simultaneously, so an element of the unknown is introduced. The physical power of watching becomes transcendent and absorbed into the psyche of the inmate who will behave as though they are being always watched.

While on a phone conversation with Bellewether some months ago and talking about young people and students, he explained that he described to them maturity or adulthood as doing what is expected even when nobody is watching. I would tend to agree with that sentiment. Children behave not because it is in their nature but in order to stave off punishment. A child unobserved and left to their own devices is one of the most destructive forces in the universe.

I have been mulling these implications over for a while. Continue reading