Politics, one of the most highly debated topics in modern society, is constantly adapting to modern issues around the world. Though some people believe politics have changed, you would be surprised to discover the core principle behind it has remained the same.
Upon reading Machiavelli’s The Prince my perception on politics has changed, as I discovered the deeper meaning behind the decisions that leaders make. He explains that in achieving your goal, it does not matter how you do it, as long as you succeed. In his book, he writes, “The wish to acquire is in truth very natural and common, and men always do so when they can, and for this they will be praised not blamed; but when they cannot do so, yet wish to do so by any means, then there is folly and blame.” He continues to talk about the use of fear and love, and claims these are the most effective form of persuasion.
Furthermore, if we apply this idea to past and modern political decisions, we can see a trend develop.
In Hong Kong, pro-democracy activists recently began protesting the government’s decision to limit the candidates for the 2017 election. Though the protests have been broken up by police, China has given the people free speech and the right to protest.
This seems like it would give people the opportunity to make change to their government. However, this is not the case as locals have no direct vote for their officials, and the Chinese government does not intend for this to change anytime soon.
C.Y. Leung, chief executive in Hong Kong, describes a “one-person, one vote” system in which citizens can cast ballots, though goes on to say the candidates they may choose from has yet to be decided. In this instance the Chinese government is maintaining their power by fixing the elections, yet they give people the illusion it is a fair system. For many this appears to be a corrupt government, whereas Machiavelli deems it just and morally acceptable, since they are using any means necessary to keep their control. Chinese officials effectively use his principles by creating enough fear to keep the people from rebelling, while allowing people to vote which creates a love for the government.
For people in America, the use of deceitful tactics by leaders to gain power sounds like a ploy found in ancient political systems long ago. Though securing power through deception seems to be outside the realm of American Politics, we tend to overlook it as our system adapts to current trends.
Taking a closer look at the different campaigns across the United States we find a constant change in the focus of each candidate, yet they all share a common theme of persuasion and deception. Over the years politics have become less about the actual issues and more about image. Political ads focus on current trends and persuade the public by bashing opponents. They subtly instill fear in the minds of the public over a specific issue, while making themselves more loved.
It is easy to see the Machiavellian tactics in use, as lies and scandals frequently surface, revealing the true intentions of our politicians. Still, we allow ourselves to be tricked into thinking the schemes of our politicians are not like those of other political organizations.
Sure, the issues change and the people arguing them do as well, but has the central focus of politics really changed?
We so often think the ideas proposed in Machiavelli’s Prince are only used in bygone governments where one person takes full control and dominates a nation. Yet the deception used by ancient and Chinese leaders is actually no different from our own.
Are the political systems the same? Obviously not. Nevertheless, the notion “by any means necessary” is apparent and continues to remain relevant while the arguments change. As election season slowly approaches, and we debate the current issues, we must take a moment to think. Are politics really changing?