Comparing and contrasting governments in Thomas More’s Utopia and Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince
Government is an important part of any country. Whether the officials in charge are skilled or not at their jobs can make or break the country. The United States of America will probably be headed more toward “break” due to the upcoming election, but I am going to focus on another country’s government for now. Those people of the Italian Renaissance were very concerned with the way their country was run. The governments described in Machiavelli’s Prince and More’s Utopia are based on very different ideals, but they still have a few characteristics in common, therefore, they deserve to be compared.
In The Prince, the ideal leader for a country is described. Machiavelli wishes for a leader to be forceful and take what he desires, no matter the cost. This leader is only concerned about doing what is needed, not what is right. Well, if they do what is needed, Machiavelli considers that “right.” There is nothing wrong with a prince coming to power through questionable means, as he says, ” when the ascent to power is made by paths of wickedness and crime; and second, when a private person becomes ruler of his country by the favour of his fellow-citizens” (Machiavelli, 20). Because of the forceful and merciless nature of this type of leader, most governments were not very fond of these ideas, as they were afraid that they would be overthrown. However, this is not the way a leader is described in Utopia. The Utopian leader is virtuous, doing what might not be easy, but what is best for his citizens. It is said, “A prince ought take more care of his people’s happiness than of his own” (More, 23).
Another big difference in these two governments is the way they feel about war. Machiavellian leaders crave war. They are always strategizing, even in times of peace because they can never be too prepared. “A prince, therefore, should have no care or thought but for war” (Machiavelli, 37). For the Utopian leader, peace is preferred. “They detest war as a very brutal thing” (More, 63). If war is inevitable, however, they will send others in place of themselves. Another strategy is to send citizens into war with their family members beside them. This way, they are more likely to fight harder because they want to save their loved ones.
Something that governments need to think about is the economy. What kind of money will they use? How will citizens pay for goods and services? Who will work which jobs? For More, it is ideal that the people of Utopia are self-sufficient, sharing amongst themselves all that they need, such as “every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever” (More, 33). Everyone works in whichever occupation suits them best after spending some time as a farmer. An issue with this, though, is that leaders are more willing to give assistance to those that are lazy as opposed to those who work hard, since they are more likely to be in need. This is a bit similar to how I feel about modern America. For Machiavelli, the people are not as self sufficient. Soldiers are preferred and they love spoils of war and taking what belongs to others. They want their citizens to always be trying harder to be the best that they can, so why should they waste time working? I believe that this is similar to the Machiavellian leader in that they prefer soldiers over the hard working common man. Both leaders show favoritism towards certain members of their countries, but they also take pride in individuals that do their best. They will always appreciate hard work.
Having a strong, smart government and leaders was important to Renaissance Italians. The actions of the leaders would determine their future, so it made sense that they would wish for the best.No two leaders are alike, yet many are successful. Although Machiavelli and More have two different ideas about what a good leader and government are, they show some similar opinions.
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