Friday, 7 September 2012


There's a partial truth in Niccolò Machiavelli's famous statement (it's from chapter 14 of Il Principe): 'Among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised.' He might have added: '... to your face'; for the armed man is just as much despised behind his back. Indeed, we might think, rather more so. Machiavelli's book as a positively mafiosi insistence on 'respect' as the bedrock of princely power -- chapter 19 is even called "That one should avoid being despised and hated". But the problem is: a man has a gun to gain respect; but it is not he who is respected, it is his gun. Or to put it another way, Machiavelli's words only really strike home when we have a suitably non-gun understanding of what it means for a political leader to be armed.

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