Lao-Tzu vs Machiavelli

Leaders have always played a crucial role in history. Since the initial existence of human kind, leaders have been fundamental to our civilization. Through these eras there have been many educators, with insight on how to become a great leader. Among those educators was Niccolo Machiavelli, believing in a strong government control by a prince, who acted more in terms of practicality and maintaining power at all cost.

On the contrary Lao-Tzu suggested a completely different approach, believing that a ruler will be respected and followed if he does not act powerfully and enforces rules. Perhaps the most evident difference between Machiavelli and Lao-tzu is how a government should work. Lao-tzu states, “When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists. ”(3) His political philosophy is more individualistic, a carefree branch of politics.

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A peaceful system where its master should not have total control, letting everything run its course. …understand that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the amount of Tao. ” (18) On the other hand Machiavelli believes the government should be controlled and powerful, even stating that a prince may have to be cunning and deceitful in order to maintain power. “… a prince must not worry about the reproach of cruelty when it is a matter of keeping his subjects united and loyal;” (12) powerful worlds in hellish times. … it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking. ” (14) Machiavelli realizes a leader should be strong and feared, but not hated. A hated leader would likely be killed in a rebellion. One also cannot be loved; too much clemency towards his people will make them believe he is weak. Machiavelli makes an example of this in his book The Qualities of the Price, writing about Scipio, which at the time he believed was the most extraordinary man in all recorded history.

He explains that Scipio’s armies rebelled against him for his excessive compassion. Lao-tzu teaches that simplicity, patience, and compassion are “the greatest treasures. ” (57) Believing that a ruler should not act powerful and enforce rules, and because of this, he will gain respect from the community. But only in a simpler world would this idea thrive. Machiavelli believes excessive mercy would cause disorders and murders, so he took a more aggressive realistic approach to the topic, advising the leader to become cruel if needed. Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself” (17) states Lao-tzu in The thoughts from the Toa-te Ching. He believed weapons were a tool of fear, and should be avoided by all decent men. He believed that if a person does not harm others, they will not harm the person as well. Machiavelli had a distinct view in weapons and defense; he encouraged a prince to train himself in peace time more than in time of war, a strong sharp military is necessary at all times.

Suggesting a prince should focus in war then personal luxuries, because being disarmed makes you despised. Although similarities between Machiavelli and Lao-Tzu may be difficult to detect, they both gave strong, thought out point of views, aiming towards a successful government. But when it comes down to our world we cannot just expect people to do the right things. Machiavelli thoughts are more sovereign, making sure that peace and order in the community could be backed up. Only in simpler times might Lao-tzu political views thrive.

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