Machiavelli was a very smart guy who by the way wrote The Prince in the hope of attracting employment.  He failed to get the job.  He was a little too nice, not quite tough enough. 

So most people who are familiar with Machiavelli are familiar with the views he expressed in The Prince.  Not so many people seem to have read his Discourses where he thought that the best form of government is a more republican form of government - that is a democracy in our modern terms - and I certainly agree that from the perspective of the folks on the street it’s far and away the best form of government. 

From the perspective of a leader, somebody who wants to hold onto power, it’s the worst form of government because it puts you at the greatest risk of losing power.  So in The Dictator’s Handbook we go well beyond Machiavelli’s understanding to lay out precisely what leads you to hold onto power and precisely what ties the hands of a democrat in trying to do the things that dictators also do. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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