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Posts Tagged ‘ADVICE’

TRUMP: IGNORING MACHIAVELLI AT HIS PERIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 20, 2020 at 12:05 am

For all his ruthlessness and duplicity, it’s almost a certainty that Donald Trump has never read the works of Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science.

Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) is widely thought of as the personification of Satan.

In fact, Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

Florence, for all its wealth, lacked a strong army, and thus lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Cesare Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Contrary to popular belief, Machiavelli did not advocate evil for its own sake. 

Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect solution to a problem. He realized that men—and nations—are not always masters of their fates. And he warned that there is no course of action that is guaranteed safe or successful.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a man of simplistic “solutions” for simplistic audiences.

By early April, he opposed the issuing of a national “stay-at-home” order to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. But, one by one, states began issuing shutdown orders of their own. Since then, he has railed against those orders and demanded that “we need to reopen the country.” 

Donald Trump

What lies behind this demand are two hidden agendas:

First, throughout his Presidency, Trump has claimed sole credit for a booming economy—even though this was largely the result of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Second, Trump wants to return to his Nuremberg-style rallies, where he can slander anyone he wants while basking in the worship of thousands of his fanatical followers.

His White House “Coronavirus briefings” have been his pale substitute for dispensing propaganda under the guise of sharing reliable medical information.

Which is why he has clearly missed this warning, offered in Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses:  

…I shall speak here only of those dangers to which those expose themselves who counsel a republic or a prince to undertake some grave and important enterprise in such a manner as to take upon themselves all the responsibility of the same. 

“For as men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations.  But the reward never equals the punishment….

“Certainly those who counsel princes and republics are placed between two dangers. If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty….

“I see no other course than to take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly. 

“If either then the republic or the prince decides to follow it, they may do so, as it were, of their own will, and not as though they were drawn into it by your importunity.

“In adopting this course it is not reasonable to suppose that either the prince or republic will manifest any ill will towards you on account of a resolution not taken contrary to the wishes of the many.”

Right now, more Americans are wary of “reopening the country” than they are rushing to do so. 

On the May 15 edition of The PBS Newshour, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted:

“If you look at actual behavior, people locked themselves down before any politician took a move. And even in those states where the politicians are opening up, people are still locking down….

“You look at the movement based on cell phone tracking. Red and blue states have the same amount of movement. The same number of people basically in state after state are staying home. And red and blue states, there’s no correlation between whether it’s a red and blue state and whether people are doing better or worse.

“And so I think the key decisions right now are not being made in statehouses and certainly not the White House. They’re being made in living rooms, as people decide, is it safe? Can I go out?”

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

By pushing his mantra—“America needs to reopen NOW!”—Trump is risking the lives of millions of Americans. But he is also risking the future of his Presidency.

Several states—such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—that have re-opened have seen swarms of people flooding into bars and restaurants. They weren’t wearing masks or practicing “social distancing.” Packed together like sardines, they offered themselves like a sacrifice to Coronavirus.

If a new wave of COVID-19 breaks out after America “reopens,” Trump will be seen—as Machiavelli warns—as the primary instigator of that “reopening.” He will also be seen as the primary cause of that re-infection. 

Herbert Hoover did not create the Great Depression. But he presided over the first three years of it. And that was enough to elect Franklin D. Roosevelt for 12 years and give Harry S. Truman another eight.

Trump—unintentionally—is offering Democrats another chance to own the Presidency for a generation.

GIVING ADVICE SAFELY—THE MACHIAVELLI WAY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 17, 2018 at 12:15 am

Ask the average person, “What do you think of Niccolo Machiavelli?” and he’s likely to say: “The devil.” 

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

Niccolo Machiavelli

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy—with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another. 

Florence, for all its wealth, lacked a strong army, and thus lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Most people believe that Machiavelli advocated evil for its own sake.

Not so. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect—or perfectly good—solution to a problem. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern—even brutal—action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread:

“A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”

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His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527). This is especially  true for politicians—and students of political science.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer—such as those in business who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action: “For men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations. But the reward never equals the punishment.” 

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail to do their duty.  

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in thus, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.” 

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an adviser should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.” 

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the adviser.

Above all, the adviser must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.  

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

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John F. Kennedy

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the adviser gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius—and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it—” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

GIVING ADVICE–SAFELY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics on June 23, 2016 at 1:14 am

On the rare occasion when most people think of Niccolo Machiavelli, the image of the devil comes to mind.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy–with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Also contrary to what most people believe about Machiavelli, he did not advocate evil for its own sake. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect–or perfectly good–solution to a problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern–even brutal–action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread.

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527)–especially for politicians.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer–such as those who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action:  

“For men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations. But the reward never equals the punishment.”

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail to do their duty.  

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in thus, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.”

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an adviser should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.”

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the adviser.

Above all, the adviser must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.  

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

John F. Kennedy

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the adviser gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius–and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it–” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

GIVING ADVICE–SAFELY

In History, Politics, Self-Help on May 10, 2013 at 12:12 am

On the rare occasion when most people think of Niccolo Machiavelli, the image of the devil comes to mind.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy–with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Also contrary to what most people believe about Machiavelli, he did not advocate evil for its own sake. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect–or perfectly good–solution to a problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern–even brutal–action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread.

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527)–especially for politicians.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer–such as those who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action:

“For men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations. But the reward never equals the punishment.”

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty.

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in this, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.”

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an advisor should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.”

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the advisor.

Above all, the advisor must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.”

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the advisor gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius–and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it—” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

TAKING AND GIVING ADVICE

In Bureaucracy, Politics, Self-Help on May 26, 2010 at 12:20 am

Some people–like President Richard Nixon–like to make their decisions in private, consulting almost no one and then springing the surprise announcement on an often-shocked public.

Others, like President Bill Clinton, care more about what their enemies than their supporters think of them. As a result, they usually wind up alienating their supporters and winning at best only token support from their enemies.

But there is another way to reach decisions–that suggested by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In his classic work, The Prince, he offers an approach that combines the private with the public.

Having served as Florentine ambassador to courts throughout Italy, Machiavelli well understood the temptations of power. He thus fashioned an approach that accepted as a given the power of flattery–and the need to guard oneself against it.

This danger is best illustrated in the famous joke about a corporate president asking his private pilot, “What altitude are we flying at?” and the suck-up pilot replies, “What altitude do you want it to be?”

And having met rulers both wise and foolish, Machiavelli realized how essential it was for those in power to keep a steady grip on the truth about people and events. So he offered the following advice:

There is no way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth. But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect. A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.

But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable. Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.

Whoever acts otherwise either acts precipitately through flattery or else changes often through the variety of opinions, from which it follows that he will be little esteemed.

A prince, therefore, ought always to take counsel, but only when he wishes, not when others wish. On the contrary, he ought to discourage absolutely attempts to advise him unless he asks it. But he ought to be a great asker, and a patient hearer of the truth about those things of which he has inquired. Indeed, if he finds that anyone has scruples in telling him the truth he should be angry.

But what about the giving of advice? Machiavelli has some brilliant counsel on that, too. In his great work, The Discourses–which deals with how to preserve liberty within a republic–he warns:

Certainly those who counsel princes and republics are placed between two dangers. If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty. And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in this, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.

In reflecting as to the means to avoid this dilemma of either disgrace or danger, I see no other course than to take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly. If either then the republic or the prince decides to follow it, they may do so, as it were, of their own will, and not as though they were drawn into it by your importunity.

In adopting this course it is not reasonable to suppose that either the prince or republic will manifest any ill will towards you on account of a resolution not taken contrary to the wishes of the many. For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.

And although by following the course I advise you may fail to attain that glory which is acquired by having been one against many in counseling an enterprise which success has justified, yet this is compensated for by two advantages.

The first is, you avoid all danger. And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.

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