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New Bio: Machiavelli Not Really a D!ckhead, But Politicians Who Quote Him Are

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By HVnews on June 13, 2011

Apparently Niccolo Machiavelli wasn’t such a bad guy. Sure he wrote a book called “The Prince” that taught politicians how to amass power, but it’s been entirely misused, according to a new biography.

This new bookMachiavelli: A Biography — defends the Italian philosopher and attempts to prove he was actually a nice guy who only merely wrote about being a dickhead.

What we find most interesting about this whole Machievelli misdeal is the fact that he never actually said the famous phrase often attributed to him, how “the end justifies the means.”

Here’s some more from Steve Weinberg’s review of the new biography:

Today, [Author Miles] Unger says, Machiavelli’s name “has been turned into an adjective to describe any cynical act or the pursuit of power without conscience.” That stereotype is unfair and inaccurate, as Unger establishes on page after page. The biographer is no apologist for his subject. Instead, Unger does what biographers are supposed to do — separate reality from myth.

A large dollop of Machiavelli’s current influence within politics and corporate governance can be explained by these words of Unger: “Terms like Realpolitik or raison d’etat, theories that take a dim view of humanity and advocate strong medicine to curb our appetites, can be traced to Machiavelli’s writings.”

Strong medicine, yes, but Machiavelli has been wrongly cast as an apologist for tyranny. In fact, he was something of a republican during his lifetime — advocating for a strong ruler is not the same as advocating for a tyrant. Machiavelli believed in dictatorial powers, Unger says, “only when the normal tools of government have failed to meet a crisis.”

So why are so many politicians compared to him, incorrectly?

From Obama and Bush, to Reagan and Nixon, everyone has taken a hit.

Bill Clinton even quoted the fella to justify Obama’s health care plan at the 2010 Gridiron dinner. He quoted a passage from “The Prince” that describes how people always freak out when new things are done.

We are not sure how comparing Obama to someone who has a reputation for chopping people’s heads off to get what he wants was the best way to defend the president.

But, hey, the end justifies the means, right?

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