Lao-Tzu vs. Machiavelli

Topics: Niccolò Machiavelli, Political philosophy, Cesare Borgia Pages: 5 (1620 words) Published: April 28, 2011
Lao-tzu vs. Machiavelli
Government is the essential authority of a country or state, which is directly, affects society because it provides key securities. Two of history’s greatest thinkers Lao-tzu, authors of the Tao-te Ching, and Niccolo Machiavelli, author of The Prince have similar but very contrasting ideas of government, and how people should be governed.

Lao-tzu was born in the Chinese state of Ch’u. He spent most of his life working in the library of the Chou dynasty. Once he decided to leave a gate keeper convinced him he would write down his thoughts, Thus creating the Tao-te Ching.

Lao-tzu’s view of government is the master should not have optimal power over the people. He feels as though people should be ignorant of government. A good leader will not try to impose power of his people. There is a plan already set for the universe. No human can change that, so you should not try to control your own destiny. In the end what is destined to happen will and life will be much easier if you let it do so. For example, in the Tao-te Ching Lao-tzu states, “If you want to be a great leader, / you must learn to follow the Tao./ Stop trying to control./Let go of fixed plans and concepts, / and the world will govern itself” (Verse 57). Another example holds true in line 16 verses 29 of the Tao-te Ching, “The Master sees things as they are, without trying to control them. / She lets them go their own way, / and resides at the center of the circle.”

Lao-tzu believes the master should be honest, but there is no need to make empty promises. If things happen as nature intends, there will be no need to make promises that will not be kept. As opposed to Machiavelli who will only keep a promise when the outcome is relevant and will benefit him. Lao-tzu takes into consideration individuals and what they can do for themselves, not what they can do for the master. The master is on the same level as his subjects. They are so blissfully ignorant to his accomplishments they believe them to be their own. When this situation occurs the people will celebrate, because it is not necessary for the master to brag on himself.

Lao-tzu believes people will do the right thing. Wealth and possession of lavish material things are of no concern. In a sense let go of desired things rather than needs. As Lao-tzu sees it when one person has no more than his neighbor he will not desire to have what does not belong to him. Therefore theft will be nonexistent.

Lao-tzu does not believe in the use of weapons. It is unfortunate for a man to have enemies, we are all human and should not do harm unto others. Violence is only “approved” of in the most urgent situation. Of you must kill a man you should not be grateful and celebrate a victory, but regretful and mournful as if attending the funeral of a dear friend, all who follow the Tao should value human life and never wish to take it away.

Machiavelli, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite of Lao-tzu. The prince should gain and maintain power by any means necessary including the use of brute force. Unlike Lao-tzu, Machiavelli believes the prince should consider nothing other than war. If he is not at war then he should be thinking of scenarios in which he and his army would protect themselves should an attack occur. Not doing so could lose the state for him as Machiavelli states, “it is evident that when princes have given more thought to personal luxuries than to arms, they have lost their state: (p.40). Machiavelli believes a man should always be armed, For he feels as though it makes more sense for an unarmed man to follow the orders of an armed than the “for man to make a vocation of being good at all times will come to ruin among so many who are not good” (p.42).

Though the prince would rather be considered generous than a miser, he shouldn’t concern himself with either. In order for him to appear generous he should display his wealth whenever possible. He will use his own resources...
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