The current President of the United States is Joseph Biden; he is the American leader, and one may compare it with the “ideal prince” described by Niccolo Machiavelli in 1532 in his work The Prince. The times are different now, and probably not all descriptions from there will be relevant today; for example, the role of violence is, fortunately, much less today than in the 16th century. However, human nature is relatively stable and has not changed significantly since those times; political competition is still there, and one must retain the power to rule. Advice from The Prince is still actual today, despite their usage may be different from those centuries ago.
Types of the Prince
Machiavelli describes several types of the princedom based on the source of the prince’s power: hereditary, mixed, armed, civil, or ecclesiastical. A typical example of hereditary princedom is the monarchy, absolute or constitutional. An armed source of power represents military dictatorship, or junta when a leader is an army general who holds a state by brute force. Machiavelli describes mixed and armed princedom as the temporary, close after the conquering territories which have not belonged to a prince before (Machiavelli, 2008). Hereditary, civil, and ecclesiastical governments are still are present today in various forms. The President of the United States is democratically elected by representatives from the American population; thus, the President is a representative of civil princedom. To compare, there are countries with absolute monarchs, authoritative and oppressing presidential governments, or religious rulership. Unlike them, Joseph Biden is a typical example of a democratically elected civil prince.
Methods of Ruling
In The Prince, two main ways to retain power are described: by using brute force and fear, and by making people love the prince, making good deals for them. Machiavelli admits that the latter way, ruling by fear, is more effective, as it is much harder for people to disobey when they feel that they will be punished severely for that (Machiavelli, 2008). The words “state,” “fear,” “army,” “enemy” are some of the most frequent words in the text of The Prince, which makes it straightforward that Machiavelli advises the ruler to be ruthless (Gupta & Gupta, 2018). He argues that if the prince relies on his good deeds and love of the population, he may lose their respect and be deposed, while the feared population will not overthrow him.
When describing the ruthlessness and force usage, Niccolo Machiavelli writes that an ideal prince should be able to use raw power to suppress those against princedom. He considers actions directed by law and justice as human-like and those directed by brute force and deception as animal-like (Machiavelli, 2008). While Machia admits that human-like actions are preferable, a prince must be ready to use both methods, including murdering and lying. He writes that, while a prince must keep his word in general, if deception will help and no one will be able to accuse him, it should be used (Machiavelli, 2008). The leader, in that way, should act not based on the conventional moral but the situation (Nnaamdi & Ogan, 2019). Compared with modern democracies, the method of ruling by fear is, fortunately, not used in the United States, although some other countries are still using it. Joseph Biden, being a President, tends to use only “soft” power and human-like actions, being, thus, different from the picture of Machiavellian prince in this aspect. He retains people’s respect by serving well as a President, which corresponds better to the modern times.
Strength of a Princedom
To assess the prince’s power, Machiavelli uses the principle of self-sufficiency: whether the prince can support himself by military force and money or need to rely on other princes. In that way, it depends on how many people are ready to serve the prince and complete their tasks. To show the prince who has little power, he describes the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, who had local lords in his subordination. Despite that, they easily ignored the emperor’s will and obeyed him only when beneficial for them (Machiavelli, 2008). One may see that Machiavelli talks only about the power of a prince and his closest entourage, without considering the position of ordinary folks living on territories that belongs to them. In modern times, the situation is different, and the President of the United States is responsible for the well-being of American citizens. Joseph Biden is especially concerned by social programs, which differs him from the “ideal prince;” still, it creates a good image for him and, in that way, increases his political power.
There are various types of armed forces; Machiavelli divides them into four categories: auxiliary, mixed, prince’s own forces, and mercenaries. Among them, only the prince’s own forces are considered useful by him; other types of forces may be dangerous as they do not belong to the prince directly (Machiavelli, 2008). Mixed forces are the combination of a prince’s own army with any other type; their usage is beneficial when the percentage of the prince’s forces is higher. The President of the United States, while allowing all American citizens to serve in the army regardless their sex, orientation, or race, requires from them to be loyal and serve the America well.
Auxiliary forces are considered bad for the prince and should be used only when no other choice exists. Those are forces that belong to another prince, and thus, when using them, a prince becomes dependent on external power (Machiavelli, 2008). On the other hand, a prince should use all possibilities around him, and if there is an offer to help from another ruler, it would be unwise to reject it in some instances (Nnaamdi & Ogan, 2019). However, he should never forget that those forces do not belong to him and, thus, he is dependent on them; after they help, they may easily capture him as well. In general, Machiavelli attaches significance to the armed forces, as he considers them the essential tool of the political leader. Compared with modern democracies and the United States, the army is still one of the most crucial internal and external affairs elements. While current President, Joseph Biden, do not pay much attention to the army development, being more focused on social programs, he uses the existing strong military power of the U.S. to promote American ideas worldwide.
An Ideal Prince
To summarize the qualities and tools necessary for a prince, one may picture an ideal prince who mastered these tools and worked out the qualities. He has a strong will and makes all his plans realize; his efficiency is, thus, the most critical parameter. In addition, Machiavelli signifies that the times in which the prince reigns are essential, as they condition how he must act to retain and increase his power. In that way, an ideal prince is adaptable and acts quickly and according to the situation. He should pay great attention to his armed forces, as they are the basis for realizing his power and suppressing his opponents. While he should appear generous and trustworthy, his real actions should be aimed at realizing his plans, and he should be able to deceive, if necessary. Finally, he should manage to create a good image, making others respect and either love or fear him.
Taking the detailed portrait of an ideal prince, one may compare it with the President to see how this image applies to the current United States politics. Joseph Biden positions himself as a “good” leader who supports democracy and equity between various social groups. He came to power after the Black Lives Matters protests and is considered a generous leader who is friendly to all social groups and, thus, they all support him (Polegato & Benincasa, 2021). Therefore, initially, he had vast political support, both among the population and political establishment, which allowed them to win the 2020 elections. This corresponds with the ability of an ideal prince to make people love and respect him by using an image of the generous person.
Biden follows the Machiavellian rules connected with generosity and a good image compared to an ideal prince: people admire him and consider him the best leader. However, he seems to have no strong political will and, thus, his decisions are not efficient enough to solve political issues. Machiavellian rules for political leaders continue to apply in modern times, despite different forms: leaders should still be able to manage people and solve problems efficiently (Bellamy, 2018). For that, they should have a strong will and use power when necessary, and Joseph Biden’s personality seems to be very mild for that. However, his democratic position is extremely important nowadays, when an equal and safe society is one of the highest priorities in politics (Gupta & Gupta, 2018). In that way, Biden follows the critical Machiavelli’s advice: to be consistent with the modern times.
To be clear, one may compare the current President, Joseph Biden, with the previous one, Donald Trump, in the light of The Prince. As he is a businessman, his personality is much more Machiavellian in the sense of the prince’s image described by Machiavelli. First, he was writing on Twitter actively during his presidency, showing his opinions and plans and realizing them, maintaining his prestige by this (Machiavelli, 2008). He uses aggressive rhetoric against his political opponents, carefully choosing words that would destroy their image (Polegato & Benincasa, 2021). Second, while having a clear plan, Trump was able for quick and spontaneous actions when necessary: in that way, he has a strong political will and is ready to use force. He is often compared with a Machiavellian “prince,” taking all those qualities (Zuckert, 2018). However, Donald Trump, while following most of the “ideal prince” rules, fails to follow those connected with the image and generosity. In that way, people lost faith in President Trump, and he could not continue his political career successfully after that.
One may also compare the general political course of the United States with those described in The Prince as the most effective. The United States has the strongest armed forces in the world and, thus, is able to dictate its political will to other countries. It corresponds to the Machiavellian’s argument that the prince’s most important tool is armed forces, allowing them to realize their politics as they want (Machiavelli, 2008). Generally, the modern politics of democratic states are different from those described in the 16th-century book; despite that, The Prince remains actual for it. While a prince described there should be ruthless, calculating, and even deceptive, modern leaders are much more concerned by the well-being of their citizens. However, power is still connected with force and political will; the leader’s personality should be strong to hold power and take political decisions such as international agreements or budget distribution (Bellamy, 2018). In that way, while the political system of the United States is democratic and based on principles of law, the principles of power and political efficiency, described in The Prince, are still actual for it.
Thus, one may see that, while the sociopolitical situation changed drastically compared with the 16th century, many aspects of an ideal prince, described in The Prince, such as strong political will, are still existing today. Despite the United States democratic government, the political competition is still real, and to become the President, one should win the election. The leader should use various political techniques to maintain their image and attract people. While opponents should not fear the leader, as it was centuries before, they should pay respect for them, which is, in fact, close to the Machiavellian description of fear. Joseph Biden, the current President, possess some qualities necessary for an ideal prince described by Machiavelli. He uses soft power and human-like actions to gain people’s respect and retain his power. American politics in general, while being democratic, is also Machiavellian, as it uses its armed forces and political influence to dictate its will to the world.
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Gupta, K., & Gupta, S. (2018). Antidisestablishmentarianism in the American election: The rise of Donald Trump and far right parties in Europe, identity politics in the light of Niccolo Machiavelli’s treatise The Prince. Journal of Global Economy, 13(4), 250–267. Web.
Machiavelli, N. (2008). The prince (J. B. Atkinson, Trans.). Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
Nnaamdi, B., & Ogan, T. V. (2019). Niccolo Machiavelli and the morality of “the end justifies the means” in the prince: A philosophical perspective. Journal of Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Africa, 4(3), 33–39. Web.
Polegato, A., & Benincasa, F. (2021). Machiavelli in contemporary media. Palgrave Macmillan.
Zuckert, C. (2018). Trump as a Machiavellian prince? Reflections on corruption and American constitutionalism. Trump and Political Philosophy, 73–87. Web.