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Machiavelli's political philosophy is so popular (or reviled) that the adjective...

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lehcir | Student | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 8, 2013 at 8:36 PM via web

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Machiavelli's political philosophy is so popular (or reviled) that the adjective Machiavellian is often used. Would you apply the term Machiavellian to any leaders or politicians today? 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 8, 2013 at 8:49 PM (Answer #1)

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To be honest, it would be hard to think of any political leader today that we would not be able to characterize as Machiavellian.  We use the term very broadly now to refer to anyone who acts in a duplicitous way to try to promote their own power or their own agenda.  When we use the term this loosely, it is hard to imagine any successful politician who does not act in this way.

For example, we could say that President Obama has been duplicitous and Machiavellian in his rhetoric and actions about the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  He ran for office in 2008 promising to close the prison and shows no signs of actually following through on his promise.

But other politicians do the same thing.  In the 2012 election, the Republicans hammered the President constantly on his “Obamacare” plan even though it was based in many ways on Mitt Romney’s system that he set up as governor of Massachusetts and on ideas once supported by conservatives.

Both parties act duplicitously on entitlement reform.  They talk about the need to reform things like Medicare, but then whenever the other party tries to do something, the accuse it of trying to kill Medicare.

In other words, if we call anyone who lies and deceives in order to promote their agenda Machiavellian, we will have to use it on every politician around.


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