Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Despotism 101: Lessons from The Prince

I recently finished reading The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli which was written in the early 1500's.  It is a fascinating instruction manual on how to obtain and maintain political power in a world of feudal totalitarian states.  
For those of you who are ambitious and lust for power, here are the basic rules for aspiring despots to follow:

1.  Don't leave your army in the new territory you conquered.  That just makes the locals mad.  Rather, dispossess a few farmers of their land and give it to colonists from the homeland.  It costs less and the farmers whose land you took are so few and too poor after that to cause any trouble.

2. Good will of the inhabitants of your conquered territory is of the utmost importance.

3.  If you conquer a territory where the inhabitants speak another language than your own, expect trouble.

4.  When you first conquer a territory, make sure you liquidate the existing Prince and all his kin.  You don't need the old Prince or his angry family roaming around causing trouble for you. 

5.  Move to the territory you conquered.  Since you will have eliminated the old Prince, he won't be there anymore and the people will appreciate having their new ruler close by to be able to call upon him. This builds popularity.

6.  Become the protector of your weak territorial neighbors and lift them up.  But not too much.  You still need to keep them under your heel to prevent trouble. 

7.  Deferring war for peace only makes things worse for you.  Go to war.

8.  Never trust the nobles.  They are schemers. 

9.  Conquering Republics is tough business.  You need to (A) destroy it, (B) move and live there, or (C) install a puppet government and leave it alone.  Total destruction is the best and surest option.

10.  Use your officers to do the dirty work of oppressing resistance so you can remain popular.  When the public cries out against your officer's cruelty, quickly execute your officers so you can still look good.  

11.  Never forgive nor forget, your enemies don't.

12.  If you have to wound your enemy, it is better to annihilate him so he cannot someday return the favor. 

13.  If you are popular, still don't count on the people saving you from trouble unless they are constantly dependent upon you and the State for their well being.

14.  Don't use mercenaries to conquer new territory.  They are unfaithful, cowards, and expensive.

15.  Always be on a war footing.

16.  If you must be cruel, do it quickly and all at once so the memory of it fades quickly with the passage of time.

17.  Never, never, never meddle with the property or the women of your subjects.  It is bad form.

18.  It is better to be feared than loved.  But make sure to never be hated.

19.  It's ok for you to be dishonest because everyone else is. That is how you get ahead.  Just make sure you appear to be honest in all things. 

20.  Be good if you want, but know how to be evil if you have to be.

There is much more but these 20 rules should be a good start for you to begin your tyrannical rule over your new kingdom.  Make sure you follow these closely, otherwise your reign will be as short as it is violent. 

Happy Governing! 

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