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Article :: Supporting Evidence

Machiavailli Reconsidered

The Prince

by Nicolo Machiavelli


Concerning Liberality And Meanness

COMMENCING then with the first of the above-named characteristics, I say that it would be well to be reputed liberal. Nevertheless, liberality exercised in a way that does not bring you the reputation for it, injures you; for if one exercises it honestly and as it should be exercised, it may not become known, and you will not avoid the reproach of its opposite. Therefore, any one wishing to maintain among men the name of liberal is obliged to avoid no attribute of magnificence; so that a prince thus inclined will consume in such acts all his property, and will be compelled in the end, if he wish to maintain the name of liberal, to unduly weigh down his people, and tax them, and do everything he can to get money. This will soon make him odious to his subjects, and becoming poor he will be little valued by any one; thus, with his liberality, having offended many and rewarded few, he is affected by the very first trouble and imperilled by whatever may be the first danger; recognizing this himself, and wishing to draw back from it, he runs at once into the reproach of being miserly.[1]

Therefore, a prince, not being able to exercise this virtue of liberality in such a way that it is recognized, except to his cost, if he is wise he ought not to fear the reputation of being mean, for in time he will come to be more considered than if liberal, seeing that with his economy his revenues are enough, that he can defend himself against all attacks, and is able to engage in enterprises without burdening his people; thus it comes to pass that he exercises liberality towards all from whom he does not take, who are numberless, and meanness towards those to whom he does not give, who are few.

We have not seen great things done in our time except by those who have been considered mean; the rest have failed. Pope Julius the Second was assisted in reaching the papacy by a reputation for liberality, yet he did not strive afterwards to keep it up, when he made war on the King of France; and he made many wars without imposing any extraordinary tax on his subjects, for he supplied his additional expenses out of his long thriftiness. The present King of Spain would not have undertaken or conquered in so many enterprises if he had been reputed liberal. A prince, therefore, provided that he has not to rob his subjects, that he can defend himself, that he does not become poor and abject, that he is not forced to become rapacious, ought to hold of little account a reputation for being mean, for it is one of those vices which will enable him to govern.[2]

And if any one should say: Caesar obtained empire by liberality, and many others have reached the highest positions by having been liberal, and by being considered so, I answer: Either you are a prince in fact, or in a way to become one. In the first case this liberality is dangerous, in the second it is very necessary to be considered liberal; and Caesar was one of those who wished to become pre-eminent in Rome; but if he had survived after becoming so, and had not moderated his expenses, he would have destroyed his government. And if any one should reply: Many have been princes, and have done great things with armies, who have been considered very liberal, I reply: Either a prince spends that which is his own or his subjects' or else that of others. In the first case he ought to be sparing, in the second he ought not to neglect any opportunity for liberality. And to the price who goes forth with his army, supporting it by pillage, sack, and extortion, handling that which belongs to others, this liberality is necessary, otherwise he would not be followed by soldiers. And of that which is neither yours nor your subjects' you can be a ready giver, as were Cyrus, Caesar, and Alexander; because it does not take away your reputation if you squander that of others, but adds to it; it is only squandering your own that injures you.

And there is nothing wastes so rapidly as liberality, for even whilst you exercise it you lose the power to do so, and so become either poor or despised, or else, in avoiding poverty, rapacious and hated. And a prince should guard himself, above all things, against being despised and hated; and liberality leads you to both. Therefore it is wiser to have a reputation for meanness which brings reproach without hatred, than to be compelled through seeking a reputation for liberality to incur a name for rapacity which begets reproach with hatred.[3][4]

  • A prince should use liberality with all those from whom he does not take, who are infinite and meanness with all those to whom he does not give, who are few.
  • To not have to rob his subjects, to be able to defend himself, not to become poor and contemptible, nor to be forced to become rapacious, a prince should esteem it little to incur a name for meanness, because this is one of those vices which enable him to rule.
  • There is nothing that consumes itself so much as liberality: while you use it, you lose the capacity to use it; and you become either poor and contemptible or, to escape poverty, rapacious and hateful.
  • A prince should guard against being contemptible and hated and liberality leads you to both.

[1] Machiavailli defines liberality as generousity (Today: entitlements) and the bribing of goodwill. He correctly states that using this method of coercion by making people dependent on your generousity may achieve short term goals, but must and therefore will quickly deplete ruler resources, a loss of power which must be quickly corrected by reducing generousity and increasing tribute extracted from the people. Liberality must and therefore will change the public perception of the ruler from generous, charitable and liberal to cheap, greedy, uncaring, erasing all past memory and support based on generousity. The people will rebel and throw off the odious yoke of servitude required to correct this mistake.
Historical hindsight and advances into understanding the nature of mankind as being adaptive to environmental factors as opposed to static underline another fatal problem of liberality: The targets of generousity undergo an environmental shift where it is no longer neccessary to be personally responsible and productive. The most effective method of survival becomes to form mobs to threaten / whine to rulers for entitlements, which must come from the productive. This destroys the moral, work ethic, able to be productive (why bother) character of the people. When the folly of liberality needs to be recovered from, the productive base from which tribute needs to be extracted has been destroyed and, squeezing the few productive forces that remain forces them to conclude: no gain, why bother. This means resources must be extracted externally which means: WAR, conquest and ranging further afield for tribute and /or, culling and population reduction of "useless eaters". If conquest is successful, productivity is destroyed in the captured regions. The grim reaper of Mathematics of Rule (reality) determines REAL outcome in these matters, independent of how one may protest, oppose or "feel" about it.

[2] It is neccessary that rulers be frugal in their affairs, saving and building resources and placing tolerable burdens and tribute on the people. Only then can he be prepared for adversity and opportunities for conquest while retaining the strength of "consent of the governed" without alienating the people by the costs of ruler adventures. A reputaation of mean or cheap is not to be feared by rulers, since it allows placing light burdens on the people, allowing them to prosper making them forget all about how mean and cheap your political opponents allege you to be. People value a survivable / tolerable reality far greater than opinions.

[3] It is useful for rulers, on the way to increasing power to cultivate the perception of liberality, to gain supporters "hoping to benefit". Once having consolidated power and becoming ruler, it is fatal to exercise liberality, as explained above. So, once power is consolidated, a "bait and switch", fraudulent betrayal of your supporters is neccessary, to break your liberal promises, else face the loss of power inherent in liberality which is just a means to power, to be avoided like the plague once power is achieved.

[4] The liberality versus productivity facts are irrefutable and yet, it requires objective intelligence for confirmation. Rather than objective intelligence, subjective opinion is cultivated among the serfs by information and educational subversion. The point is, among the common people, liberatality versus productivity is considered a matter of subjective opinion. It is a strong possibility that the short term focus of politics and democratic cycles, plus the binary liberal versus productive hegellian dialectric resulting in the long term costs / benefits of liberalism / productivity not being allowed to materialize, as states oscillate between the poles of liberal / productive values is legally enforced based on psychologically known reactions of populations. This state of affairs seems to be carefully calibrated to preclude political resolution, just so those who manage (problem solvers, with a monopoly of force, predators) this chaos can profit by each swing of the manipulated political opinion pendulum, harvesting productive resources from the people each swing.

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