To Lorenzo: To His Most Excellent Majesty: Dear Larry:
To His Most Excellent and Glorious Majesty, Lorenzo:
Congratulations on becoming ruler of my wonderful city, Firenze. Since you have accomplished this task not due to the acclaim of the people, or the acclaim of anyone really, you probably do not need my advice. Still, since I’ve spent the better part of the last decade hearing about how terrible you and your family are at these sorts of things, I figured I better send you something just in case. Obviously, I have never once doubted your abilities as a ruler, but any ruler would do well to heed my advice, seeing as I’ve pretty much solved the whole “government” thing.
- It is better for a Prince to be feared than loved. This should be pretty obvious, since really, who has ever heard of a ruler being loved? Still, it’s better to be loved than hated. Worse still than being hated is for your subjects to be polite to your face, then say mean things about you when you leave the room. This is the fate that befell Granulus, Archon of Athens for three weeks in May of 371 B.C.
- Ruling a nation is a delicate balancing act between keeping the people happy and keeping the elite happy. The people are basically stupid, but once in awhile they’ll get angry about something trivial like starvation or poverty or continually being looted by their rulers. The elite are smart enough to get into all the best parties, where they will probably try to stab you. The key is to invite the people to all the best parties, then hope the elite won’t be able to find you in such a crowd. Caesar Augustus was able to avoid the entirety of the Senate for almost 14 years in this manner.
- It is better for a Prince to appear pious than to actually be pious. Because, come on, have you read those rules?
- A Prince must be both cunning like the fox and strong like the lion. Also, in the best case, he should most resemble the walrus in appearance and grace.
- The most important thing a Prince can do is command a good army. The second most important is to wear clean socks whenever possible. Cyrus the Great of Persia, though his army was known to the Greeks as basically a bunch of girls, was still able to become a great conqueror because his subjects were always in awe of his graceful foot scent.
- People will generally be OK with you as long as you don’t steal their money or their women. And also if you don’t kill them without a good reason. And if you don’t let anyone else kill them for any reason. So, basically, people are terrible, whiny children who will constantly annoy you with petty complaints of this nature. The best thing to do when they come to you with grievances is to appear to be listening, nod occasionally while saying “oh, how terrible!” and remind them how lucky they are that you haven’t stabbed anyone in the eye yet. Marcus Aurelius was able to command all of Rome, despite being hated by the army, by simply not stabbing anyone in the eye.
Follow these rules, and I’m sure you’ll be fine. Because if there’s one thing we Italians are known for, it’s governmental stability and lack of political intrigue.