It’s the birthday of the man who wrote, “A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise”: Niccolò Machiavelli (books by this author), born in Florence (1469). He had an early career in politics when Italy wasn’t a unified country, but rather a collection of allied city-states. It was an unstable time, and he lost his post when the government was overthrown by the Medici family. He wrote The Prince in 1513 as an instruction manual on obtaining and holding onto power, in hopes that he could impress the powerful Medicis and earn a political position. In his treatise, he wrote that morality was irrelevant when it came to running a state. He didn’t advocate evil for its own sake, and believed rulers should stick to the good whenever possible. But he also said they should be willing to perform evil acts when it became necessary to hold onto their power and maintain the security of the state.
Machiavelli’s attempt to impress the Medicis backfired, and they may never have even read The Prince until after his death. His name became associated with cutthroat tactics and violence, and he never held another government job.