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Interesting Machiavelli Quote:

From Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, chapter 44, which is titled (in part) "It is not well to Threaten without Having the Power to Act":

From this we plainly see the folly and imprudence of demanding a thing, and saying beforehand that it is intended to be used for evil; and that one should never show one's intentions, but endeavor to obtain one's desires anyhow. For it is enough to ask a man to give up his arms, without telling him that you intend killing him with them; after you have the arms in hand, then you can do your will with them.

JB:
That sounds like a quote from E.R. Eddison,

"Oaths bind not an ill man. Were I minded to do you evil, then lightly might I swear any oath you choose, and in the next moment lightestly be forsworn."
1.26.2007 8:19pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
If you're doing business with a religious son of a bitch, get it in writing. His word isn't worth shit, not with the good Lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.

-Burroughs
1.26.2007 8:27pm
Cornellian (mail):
Machiavelli's "Discourses on Livy" is filled with interesting insights - well worth reading.
1.26.2007 8:39pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

...not with the good Lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.


That must be the NEW new testament you're referring to.

Is the passage Choirboy 13:7?
1.26.2007 8:45pm
SMatthewStolte (mail):
It is an interesting quote. I wonder whether the thought requires some revision, though. I keep hearing people talk about how open Hitler was about his intentions to do evil. Machiavelli recognized that we're all liars. But did he also recognize that we are also so vain that it is difficult to keep our intentions hidden?
1.26.2007 10:47pm
JB:
Machiavelli advocated the strategy of The Little Lie--conceal your intentions and don't draw attention to your machinations.

Hitler used the obverse strategy, The Big Truth--express your intentions in outlandish enough language that people won't believe you're actually planning that, and will dismiss your schemes as bombast.

Try it--tell your friends, "I swear to god, I'm going to scale the Sears Tower." Even when you show up with climbing gear, they're less likely to try and stop you than if you say you're planning to scale some 3-story building.
1.26.2007 11:16pm
AppSocRes (mail):
It's worth reading the quote in context. Machiavelli is referring to Livy's description of the passive plebeian revolt after the rape of the young girl Virginia by a senator (see McCauley's "Lays of Ancient Rome" for a poetic rendition). In negotiations with the Senate, the plebes spilled their hand about what they planned to do with the rapists after republican government was restored. Friends in the Senate advised them to save talk of vengeance until after rule of law was restored. The reference to arms by Machiavelli is a metaphor.
1.26.2007 11:43pm
michael (mail) (www):
Hitler used a lot of coded language which was intended to communicate solidarity with those who shared his sadistic, intimidating (and disguised murderous) intent while still providing him, as one sees in Holocaust denial, with deniability.
1.27.2007 12:12am
PersonFromPorlock:

I keep hearing people talk about how open Hitler was about his intentions to do evil.

This is a little off. In Mein Kampf, Hitler was open about his intentions to do good; it was only later that people understood just how bad 'good' was.
1.27.2007 7:15am
SMatthewStolte (mail):
I appreciate the clarification on all fronts.
1.27.2007 8:56am
bellisaurius (mail):
I always liked his discourses. They always struck me as very reasonable, and are a nice retort to those who think "bad" when they think of machiavelli.
1.27.2007 10:09am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Nicolo is relaxing reading. Not the tiniest bit of hypocrisy. He was way off in his art of war (predicting that artillery would be of little value, and swordsmen were the way of the future) but then he wasn't really a techie.
1.27.2007 10:20am
Kovarsky (mail):
We need to have guns to protect ourselves from the people that vote for us to have guns.

-kovarsky
1.27.2007 12:51pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Kovarsky:

You got that from "The President's Analyst," didn't you?
1.27.2007 4:18pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"The reference to arms by Machiavelli is a metaphor."

Here we go again, metaphors people with autism *don't get.*

But even Machiavelli knew his discouse on how to bluff could not escape the hypervigilent pattern-context detection abilities peculiar to autism of spotting when anything is amiss.
1.27.2007 5:28pm
marghlar:
So what, is the whole Volokh Conspiracy at a slumber party together, and no one has taken the time to post for fear of losing ground in the Great Pillowfight of 2007?

I mean, what gives guys? Almost 24 hours without a single post?
1.27.2007 6:44pm
Goober (mail):
Meh. A citation to Machiavelli's great and all, but for the sentiment I think it's sufficient to quote the bald admiral in Top Gun: "Your mouth's writing checks your body can't cash, son."
1.27.2007 7:00pm
straightarrow:
Whether we talk of Hitler, Mao, or any of the dozens of others universally recognized as evil incarnate, we must remember that they are not actually the responsible parties for the horrors they committe.

That dubious distinction belongs to the accomodaters. Those people that went along to get along, those people that didn't think they had a dog in the fight because the current abomination wasn't aimed specifically at them. Without the accomodaters all of the despots there ever were would have only been poor pitiful crackpots screaming from the street corners and infecting the body politic with only the spittle of their hysteria.

Let us not forget the accomodaters. They are with us still.
1.28.2007 12:15am
Vova Shklovsky (mail):
Dave Hardy, you're not being fair to Machiavelli. He didn't simply write off artillery, but rather subordinated the power of artillery to the virtue of an army. Also, he wrote that artillery favored attackers over defenders. Both arguements were linked back to support the glory of the Roman Republic. It seems to me that he wasn't even trying to describe the art of war, so much as to reprimand princes and generals who favored military equipment (artillery, horses) over proper leadership and the quality of the men who compose the army.
1.28.2007 12:52am
Discourses:
Discourses on Livy also includes many interesting sections that would have saved us a lot of trouble in Iraq had the war planners taken them into account.
1.28.2007 2:34am
michael (mail) (www):
"Because one should reproach a man who is violent in order to ruin things, not one who is so in order to set them aright," Machiavelli would seem to support those criticzed war planners in general terms.
1.29.2007 12:14am