Friday, May 4, 2012

Theory versus Reality

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In theory, Loa-Tzu’s approach to leading a country is extremely appealing, but in reality Machiavelli’s The Prince better equips a leader on how to rule. Lao-Tzu believed in the goodness inside of people. While Machiavelli believed that humans were corrupt. Machiavelli also taught that the only way to govern a group of corrupt individuals is by deception, as long as it was effective. In comparing the two, a leader might question which method would be more successful. To lead a country in a Machiavellian fashion might be considered immoral and uncompassionate. On the other hand, following Lao-Tzu’s technique could put the leader at risk of his/her followers deceiving him/her.

In a perfect world, before all the thousands of years of selfish and corrupt governments, we would have been “raised” in a Lao-Tzu type of domestic. We would be taught that material items were unnecessary and the true way to happiness is being at one with the Tao. Lao-Tzu said, “When there is no desire, / all things are at peace.” (Lao-Tzu, 7) In this ideal community, the world probably would have been less polluted, less industrial and less consuming. It would be beautiful to see a world where parents did not buy their children toys to show just how much they love them. In this ideal world, no one would “Fight for freedom,” freedom would be something earned that was respected and appreciated. “If a country is governed with tolerance, / the people are comfortable and honest.” (Lao-Tzu, 58) Lao-Tzu believed the best way to lead a country was by example. He thought that if he were a good person, the country would trust him, and follow his example. He also taught that a leader should “Let go of fixed plans and concepts, / and the world will govern itself.” (Lao-Tzu, 57) An immense point Lao-Tzu repeats is to let the world be, things will fall into place without the leader having to control everything. To Lao-Tzu, control is chaos.

“The great way is easy, / yet people prefer the side paths.” (Lao-Tzu 5) This sentence proves Lao-Tzu knew that while human nature good, it was preoccupied with self-interest. He believed a great leader could guide his/her peoples towards the Toa, but people alone would be distracted by other paths along the way. This is why Machiavelli’s The Prince is more realistic. The Prince describes, realistically, the natural human reactions to a leader, while Lao-Tzu’s description of a leader is much more idealistic. We may only wish for a perfect, non-consuming world. After all Lao-Tzu said himself, “Do you want to improve the world? / I don’t think it can be done.” Therefore, we must accept that the world is not perfect, and realize that the only way to live in a corrupt, imperfect world and be happy is to follow Machiavelli’s suggestions.

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Machiavelli begins with military. He states, “It is not reasonable for an armed man to obey an unarmed man.” (Machiavelli, ) Machiavelli advised that in order to obtain control, one must always be on offence. He knew that because humans were self-interested and egotistical, power would be a constant battle. If so, one must be prepared to fight. He also believed that in order to be a good ruler, one must understand the importance of being merciful, yet stern. Because it is in our own self-interest to stay alive, laws punishable by death will be followed. “A prince must not worry about the reproach of cruelty when it is a matter of keeping his subjects united and loyal.” (Machiavelli, 1) In this, we learn a leader must be feared, yet not detested. Machiavelli believed being feared keeps the peoples united. Countries will not retaliate against a leader whom is feared and respected, only a leader who is despised and hated. To Machiavelli, reputation was very important in order to keep that respect. The leader must always seem to have the best interest of the country in mind. He believed this could be achieved by advising this “A wise ruler, therefore, cannot and should not keep his word when such an observance of faith would be to his disadvantage and when reasons which made him promise are removed.” (Machiavelli, 1) If the peoples of a country only see the side of the ruler that is working for the country and not the deceitful side, they will respect his/her decisions, and trust that the country is in good hands. When believing the country is safe, and secure, there is no reason to be fearful of outside enemies.

While a country may be safe from other countries, the leader must also fear the satisfactions of the internal country. Machiavelli believed an extremely generous leader could put himself/herself into a great deal of trouble. If a country is doing economically well, and the leader is generous with his/her money, they will receive a reputation of being charitable. However, if the country has some kind of downfall in the economy, and that generosity cannot be spared, then the expectations of that leader will come back to haunt him/her. Therefore, a leader should “Not worry about being called a miser.” (Machiavelli, 10) The constant stability of a country was more important to Machiavelli than whether or not a leader followed an honest path to achieve it.

The sad truth is we do not live in our dream world. We are born into cultures that teach us to grow up into a profession that will add to the consumption and corrupt nature that Lao-Tzu tries to defeat. Machiavelli explains, “Since my intention is to write something useful for anyone who understands it, it seemed more suitable to me to search after the effectual truth of the matter rather than its imagined one.” (Machiavelli, 7) He does exactly so, stating that he recognizes the faults of the world and realizes they cannot be fixed, only controlled. Yes, Lao-Tzu believed control was chaos, but his theories are based on idealistic circumstances. Control, in actuality is what keeps us all in line. Our society developed that way, and it will remain that way.

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