Monday, October 17, 2005

Machiavelli and Leadership: Is it Applicable in Libraries?

Machiavelli and Leadership: Is it Applicable in Libraries? This is a bit off topic but in this paper I do write about President Truman. In particular, I am using an example of his actions to illustrate the Machiavellian concept of "entering into evil."

From the site:

Perhaps the most powerful theme that Machiavelli postulates is the concept of entering into evil. In fact, it can be argued that it is the cusp of Machiavellian though set forth in The Prince. It also is an idea fraught with moral peril, which frightens off many from Machiavelli’s message. At times, a leader must commit evil acts for the common good. Further, failing to do this will actually result in a greater evil.

This is a controversial idea. It is one that many today and in the past could not accept. Machiavelli recognized this and thought it was why it was difficult to find good leaders. Ledeen (1999) wrote in summary, “The problem is to find a suitable leader, a good man willing to enter into evil to accomplish good ends. Such men are in short supply; good men shy from evil, and evil men are not interested in good ends” (p. 178).

A good modern example of entering into evil is the case of President Harry Truman and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Truman knew that dropping the atomic bomb on these cities would kill hundreds of thousands of non-combatants including children. Based on the heavy causalities on Iwo Jima and Okinawa (coupled with Kamikaze planes), he also knew that a continuation of the war with an invasion of Japan would cost an estimated one million allied causalities plus countless more Japanese. With this in mind, Truman entered into evil and ordered the bombs to be dropped. By doing so, he created a greater good as Japan surrendered and the Second World War ended.

Machiavelli also believed that once evil is entered into, the leader must exit it as quickly as possible. As noted before, leaders are to be moral and virtuous figures. They must only enter into evil when necessary to advance the greater good and then leave evil behind. President Truman did this as well. He promptly sat about the task of rebuilding Japan, feeding starving children, and reconstructing the Japanese government into a peaceful democracy.

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