I mentioned the biography, Machiavelli, by Miles Unger previously on this blog. There is a review in Barnes and Noble Review by Brooke Allen which gives an insightful analysis of the book’s message.
A couple of quotes from the book:
"The moralist gives way to the political scientist, whose job it is not to condemn human nature but to describe it in order to [counter]* its most pernicious effects. Instead of the morally freighted concept of original sin, Niccolo Machiavelli offers up the morally neutral concept of human nature, something that must be managed rather than atoned for.”
"If men were good, there would be no need for government."
* I changed minimize to counter, which I think is more clear.
When the NSA revelations came out this summer, most people I spoke to took it rather casually. “If you have nothing to hide, why be concerned?” and “Giving up privacy for the sake of security is a good bargain.” were two common responses. Now the runaway spy agency is being taken seriously by “serious” people. One of these is Jim Sensenbrenner, a very conservative Republican congressman from Wisconsin. The gist of his article in the Guardian, The NSA overreach poses a serious threat to our economy, is that US telecommunication and internet companies trying to do business overseas are getting the cold shoulder from potential customers.
There is another reason a business oriented congressman should be concerned about NSA activities. NSA and its subcontractors like Booz Allen Hamilton have been enabling thousands of potential electronic thieves. For every Edward Snowden who goes public as a whistleblower, there may be dozens of people who would be willing to sell the information they can get from breaking into the networks of private businesses. The targets are so tempting that it would be a surprise if this hasn’t taken place already on a large scale.
Machiavelli, in The Discourses, points out that in a republic a determined minority can cripple the government so there must be ways built into the system to circumvent the problem. Recess appointments have been a time honored way to get around minority roadblocks since the early days of the American Republic but recent minority parliamentary tactics may have made them illegal. The Supreme Court will decide the issue during the current 2013-2014 term.
Today, the Senate voted to end the cloture rule. This originally was intended to end a filibuster with 60 votes but has been used by both parties when in the minority to suspend Senate business. This will allow the Senate to consider appointments to judicial and other government positions (except for the Supreme Court) with a simple majority vote - as the founders intended.