17 May 2010

The Prince, chapter 10: How the Strength of States Should Be Measured

The Prince chapter 10: "How the Strength of all States Should Be Measured"

In this very short chapter, Machiavelli makes a single claim, that the strength of a state should be measured solely by its ability to defend itself.  There is no doubt that were tBill and Ted to go back in time and bring Machiavelli to the present day, that he would be a staunch realist in foreign policy.  And I’m enough of one that I largely agree with his claim.

There are, of course, other ways to measure power.  One of the best definitions of power is the ability to get others to want to do what you want them to do.*  And in recent years the issue of “soft power.”  But ultimately, the most crucial ability, which relates directly to what may be the only definitively legitimate justification for the state, is the ability to defend your state and society from invasion.  Everything else is nice, but not crucial, and primarily matters only to the extent it helps defend your own state. 

Next Week: Chapter 11: "Ecclesiastical Principalities."

* Unfortunately I can’t remember the source, but it might have been Richard Neustadt’s Presidential Power.

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