On the Fundamental Inconvenience of Democracy

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. 

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.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less