Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Richard Posner on Machiavelli on Political Morality

Richard Posner on Machiavelli:

“People… have difficulty grasping the distinctive and essential components of political morality, comprising the qualities necessary in a statesman or other leader. Those qualities are strategic and interpersonal (manipulative, coercive, psychological) in character. They are quintessentially social. They constitute the morality, misunderstood as cynicism, expounded by Machiavelli, the morality that Weber contrasted with an ‘ethic of ultimate ends’, his term for the uncompromising absolutist ethics that one finds, for example, on the Sermon on the Mount. The ethics of political responsibility implies a willingness to compromise, to dirty one’s hands, to flatter and lie, to make package deals, to forgo the prideful self satisfaction that comes from self-conscious purity and devotion to principle. It requires a sense of reality, of proportion, rather than self-righteousness or academic smarts. The politician must have an ‘ability to let realities work upon him with inner consciousness and calmness.’”

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