Lao-Tzu, Machiavelli, and the American Government

Topics: Political philosophy, U.S. state, Federal government of the United States Pages: 2 (639 words) Published: June 27, 2005
Lao-Tzu, Machiavelli, and the American Government

Lao-Tzu's "Thoughts from the Tao-te Ching" and Machiavelli's "The Qualities of a Prince" both have the ultimate goal of making better leaders. The tactics that each writer chooses to present as a guide for the leader are almost opposite of each other. Today's American government would benefit from a combination of the two extreme ideas. Lao-Tzu's laissez-faire attitude towards the economy, as well as his small scale, home defense military is appealing to a liberal person. Machiavelli's attitude towards miserliness and lower taxes, while being always prepared for war, would appeal to a conservative person. The writers are in agreement on some issues, such as taxes, but other ideas, such as government involvement in the everyday lives of citizens are completely opposed to one another.

Lao-Tzu believes in moderation and small government. He states that a leader should stay within his country and govern his people only. He stresses that when the maser governs, the people should hardly be aware that he exists. A leader who is loved is better than one who is feared. The worst is one who is despised (22). Lao-Tzu also believes that war is not necessary when all follow the Tao. He states that "violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon itself;" therefore, if you have a neutral position, you will not be harmed (24). He believes that people are inherently good and not greedy. Man's greediness comes from an overemphasis on material things. Machiavelli believes in a strong government. The leader should be strong and feared, but not despised. A hated leader would invite a rebellion that would try to remove him from power. On the other hand, a leader should not be loved. Showing too much compassion will make the people think you are weak, and he would permit disorders to continue. Machiavelli urges the leader to always be personally armed, and preparing for war, even in peace time. The leader...
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