Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Stock Markets and the History Chart of the End of the World (With Presidential Cycles) - 28th Aug 20
2.Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook... AI Tech Stocks Buying Levels and Valuations Q3 2020 - 31st Aug 20
3.The Inflation Mega-trend is Going Hyper! - 11th Sep 20
4.Is this the End of Capitalism? - 13th Sep 20
5.What's Driving Gold, Silver and What's Next? - 3rd Sep 20
6.QE4EVER! - 9th Sep 20
7.Gold Price Trend Forecast Analysis - Part1 - 7th Sep 20
8.The Fed May “Cause” The Next Stock Market Crash - 3rd Sep 20
9.Bitcoin Price Crash - You Will be Suprised What Happens Next - 7th Sep 20
10.NVIDIA Stock Price Soars on RTX 3000 Cornering the GPU Market for next 2 years! - 3rd Sep 20
Last 7 days
The Only Thing Systematic Is The Destruction Of America - 29th Sep 20
Fractional-Reserve Banking Is The Elephant In The Room - 29th Sep 20
Gold And Silver Follow Up & Future Predictions For 2020 & 2021 – Part I - 29th Sep 20
Stock Market Short-term Reversal - 29th Sep 20
How Trump co-opted the religious right and stacked the courts with conservatives - 29th Sep 20
Which RTX 3080 GPU to BUY and AVOID! Nvidia, Asus, MSI , Palit, Gigabyte, Zotac, MLCC vs POSCAPS - 29th Sep 20
Gold, Silver & HUI Stocks Big Pictures - 28th Sep 20
It’s Time to Dump Argentina’s Peso - 28th Sep 20
Gold Stocks Seasonal Plunge - 28th Sep 20
Why Did Precious Metals Get Clobbered Last Week? - 28th Sep 20
Is The Stock Market Dow Transportation Index Setting up a Topping Pattern? - 28th Sep 20
Gold Price Setting Up Just Like Before COVID-19 Breakdown – Get Ready! - 27th Sep 20
UK Coronavirus 2nd Wave SuperMarkets Panic Buying 2.0 Toilet Paper , Hand Sanitisers, Wipes... - 27th Sep 20
Gold, Dollar and Rates: A Correlated Story - 27th Sep 20
WARNING RTX 3080 AIB FLAWED Card's, Cheap Capacitor Arrays Prone to Failing Under Load! - 27th Sep 20
Boris Johnson Hits Coronavirus Panic Button Again, UK Accelerting Covid-19 Second Wave - 25th Sep 20
Precious Metals Trading Range Doing It’s Job to Confound Bulls and Bears Alike - 25th Sep 20
Gold and Silver Are Still Locked and Loaded… Don't be Out of Ammo - 25th Sep 20
Throwing the golden baby out with the covid bath water - Gold Wins - 25th Sep 20
A Look at the Perilous Psychology of Financial Market Bubbles - 25th Sep 20
Corona Strikes Back In Europe. Will It Boost Gold? - 25th Sep 20
How to Boost the Value of Your Home - 25th Sep 20
Key Time For Stock Markets: Bears Step Up or V-Shaped Bounce - 24th Sep 20
Five ways to recover the day after a good workout - 24th Sep 20
Global Stock Markets Break Hard To The Downside – Watch Support Levels - 23rd Sep 20
Beware of These Faulty “Inflation Protected” Investments - 23rd Sep 20
What’s Behind Dollar USDX Breakout? - 23rd Sep 20
Still More Room To Stock Market Downside In The Coming Weeks - 23rd Sep 20
Platinum And Palladium Set To Surge As Gold Breaks Higher - 23rd Sep 20
Key Gold Ratios to Other Markets - 23rd Sep 20
Watch Before Upgrading / Buying RTX 3000, RDNA2 - CPU vs GPU Bottlenecks - 23rd Sep 20
Online Elliott Wave Markets Trading Course Worth $129 for FREE! - 22nd Sep 20
Gold Price Overboughtness Risk - 22nd Sep 20
Central Banking Cartel Promises ZIRP Until at Least 2023 - 22nd Sep 20
Stock Market Correction Approaching Initial Objective - 22nd Sep 20
Silver Bulls Will Be Handsomely Rewarded - 21st Sep 20
Fed Will Not Hike Rates For Years. Gold Should Like It - 21st Sep 20
US Financial Market Forecasts and Elliott Wave Analysis Resources - 21st Sep 20
How to Avoid Currency Exchange Risk during COVID - 21st Sep 20
Crude Oil – A Slight Move Higher Has Not Reversed The Bearish Trend - 20th Sep 20
Do This Instead Of Trying To Find The “Next Amazon” - 20th Sep 20
5 Significant Benefits of the MT4 Trading Platform for Forex Traders - 20th Sep 20
A Warning of Economic Collapse - 20th Sep 20
The Connection Between Stocks and the Economy is not What Most Investors Think - 19th Sep 20
A Virus So Deadly, The Government Has to Test You to See If You Have It - 19th Sep 20
Will Lagarde and Mnuchin Push Gold Higher? - 19th Sep 20
RTX 3080 Mania, Ebay Scalpers Crazy Prices £62,000 Trollers Insane Bids for a £649 GPU! - 19th Sep 20
A Greater Economic Depression For The 21st Century - 19th Sep 20
The United Floor in Stocks - 19th Sep 20
Mobile Gaming Market Trends And The Expected Future Developments - 19th Sep 20
The S&P 500 appears ready to correct, and that is a good thing - 18th Sep 20
It’s Go Time for Gold Price! Next Stop $2,250 - 18th Sep 20
Forget AMD RDNA2 and Buy Nvidia RTX 3080 FE GPU's NOW Before Price - 18th Sep 20
Best Back to School / University Black Face Masks Quick and Easy from Amazon - 18th Sep 20
3 Types of Loans to Buy an Existing Business - 18th Sep 20
How to tell Budgie Gender, Male or Female Sex for Young and Mature Parakeets - 18th Sep 20
Fasten Your Seatbelts Stock Market Make Or Break – Big Trends Ahead - 17th Sep 20
Peak Financialism And Post-Capitalist Economics - 17th Sep 20
Challenges of Working from Home - 17th Sep 20
Sheffield Heading for Coronavirus Lockdown as Covid Deaths Pass 432 - 17th Sep 20
What Does this Valuable Gold Miners Indicator Say Now? - 16th Sep 20
President Trump and Crimes Against Humanity - 16th Sep 20
Slow Economic Recovery from CoronaVirus Unlikely to Impede Strong Demand for Metals - 16th Sep 20
Why the Knives Are Out for Trump’s Fed Critic Judy Shelton - 16th Sep 20
Operation Moonshot: Get Ready for Millions of New COVAIDS Positives in the UK! - 16th Sep 20
Stock Market Approaching Correction Objective - 15th Sep 20
Look at This Big Reminder of Stock Market Mania - 15th Sep 20
Three Key Principles for Successful Disruption Investors - 15th Sep 20
Billionaire Hedge Fund Manager Warns of 10% Inflation - 15th Sep 20
Gold Price Reaches $2,000 Amid Dollar Depreciation - 15th Sep 20
GLD, IAU Big Gold ETF Buying MIA - 14th Sep 20
Why Bill Gates Is Betting Millions on Synthetic Biology - 14th Sep 20
Stock Market SPY Expectations For The Rest Of September - 14th Sep 20
Gold Price Gann Angle Update - 14th Sep 20
Stock Market Recovery from the Sharp Correction Goes On - 14th Sep 20
Is this the End of Capitalism? - 13th Sep 20
The Silver Big Prize - 13th Sep 20
U.S. Shares Plunged. Is Gold Next? - 13th Sep 20
Why Are 7,500 Oil Barrels Floating on this London Lake? - 13th Sep 20
Sheffield 432 Covid-19 Deaths, Last City Centre Shop Before Next Lockdown - 13th Sep 20
Biden or Trump Will Keep The Money Spigots Open - 13th Sep 20
Gold And Silver Up, Down, Sideways, Up - 13th Sep 20

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Get Rich Investing in Stocks by Riding the Electron Wave

Feudalism and Cronyism in Machiavelli’s Italy

Economics / Economic Theory May 14, 2014 - 05:50 PM GMT



Jo Ann Cavallo writes: Although liberty is a recurring concern in Machiavelli’s writings, there is no consensus regarding either the definition of the concept or its relevance for his overall political thought. One direction of Machiavellian interpretation that has gained prominence in recent decades has focused on the concept of “libertas” in relation to a republican mode of government, even though Machiavelli’s use of liberty cannot be simply equated with republicanism. In tracing the various occurrences of the term in Machiavelli’s political works, Marcia Colish has pointed out that in the context of internal affairs “Machiavelli often connects libertà with certain personal rights and community benefits that characterize free states regardless of their constitutions.” She specifies, in fact, that “he clearly identifies freedom with the protection of private rights.”[1]

The most extreme form of aggression on private property is that upon one’s own person, negating the most basic right of self-ownership. In The Discourses, for example, uprooting men from their land is considered an act so horrendous that it is metaphorically equated with treating humans like animals. Commenting that Philip of Macedon “moved men from province to province as shepherds move their sheep,” Machiavelli remarks that this inhuman cruelty goes against universal law: “Such methods are exceedingly cruel, and are repugnant to any community, not only to a Christian one, but to any composed of men.” Indeed, in an uncompromising espousal of ethics over exigency, Machiavelli declares that not even the power of kingship can justify infringing upon human freedom in this way: “It behooves, therefore, every man to shun them, and to prefer rather to live as a private citizen than as a king with such ruination of men to his score.”[2]

Machiavelli imagines, moreover, how a condition of entitlement can be set into place ex nihilo through sheer political and military force:

Where considerable equality prevails, no one who proposes to set up a kingdom or principality, will ever be able to do it unless from that equality he selects many of the more ambitious and restless minds and makes of them gentry in fact and not in name, by giving them castles and possessions and making of them a privileged class with respect both to property and subjects; so that around him will be those with whose support he may maintain himself in power, and whose ambitions, thanks to him, may be realized. As to the rest they will be compelled to bear a yoke which nothing but force will ever be able to make them endure.[3]

In this scenario, political power both creates and feeds off of a system of privilege and parasitism. Citing Marc Bloch’s seminal Feudal Society, [Murray] Rothbard defines feudalism as “the seizure of land by conquest and the continuing assertion and enforcement of ownership over that land and the extraction of rent from peasants continuing to till the soil.”[4] In agreement with Locke’s ideas on the origin of rightful property ownership, Rothbard states: “It should be clear that here, just as in the case of slavery, we have a case of continuing aggression against the true owners — the true possessors — of the land, the tillers, or peasants, by the illegitimate owner, the man whose original and continuing claim to the land and its fruits has come from coercion and violence.”[5] Feudalism is thus one of the classic ways in which “the State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for predation on the property of the producers; it makes certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society.”[6]

I would contend, moreover, that Machiavelli goes beyond the specific issues related to taxation and private property to dissuade the prince from intervening in civil society (il vivere civile) more generally as well. During this period, it was not uncommon to find collusion between political and economic forces in society. Renaissance princes “pledged mining and trade monopolies”[7] while privileged families were “concerned about controlling the political situation in order to profit from the monti (public funds), to be able to obtain reductions on taxes and forced loans, to establish international relationships of privilege, or even to set up monopolies via official missions and with the backing of popes and kings.”[8] The Medici family was particularly notorious for using political power for economic advantage (and vice versa) ...

In contrast to the various forms of state corporatism operating in his day and continuing in our own, Machiavelli separates economic endeavors from political activity. As he wrote in a letter to his friend Francesco Vettori, “Fortune has seen to it that, since I do not know how to talk about either the silk or the wool trade, or profits or losses, I have to talk about the state.”[9] In pointing to his own limitations, Machiavelli is also envisioning economics and politics as two independent spheres, each requiring a different kind of expertise. In fact, in his political writing, he makes a point to assert that civil society can best flourish in the absence of government intrusion. In The Discourses he states that the common utility (commune utilità) of a free state (vivere libero) is “the possibility of enjoying what one has, freely and without incurring suspicion ..., the assurance that one’s wife and children will be respected, [and] the absence of fear for oneself.”[10]


[1] Marcia L. Colish, “The Idea of Liberty in Machiavelli,” Journal of the History of Ideas 32, no. 3 (1971): 323–350, esp. 325.

[2] Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses (London, New York: Penguin, 2003), p. 177.

[3] Ibid., p. 247.

[4] Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1982), p. 67n.

[5] Ibid., p 65.

[6] Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto (Auburn, AL: Mises Institute, [1973] 2011), p. 62.

[7] Lauro Martines, “The Renaissance and the Birth of Consumer Society,” Renaissance Quarterly 51, no. 1 (1998): 193–203, esp. 195.

[8] Vittore Branca, ed. “Introduction” to Merchant Writers of the Italian Renaissance: From Boccaccio to Machiavelli, pp.vii–xlix. Translated by Murtha Baca (New York: Marsilio, 1999), p. xi.

[9] John Najemy, Between Friends: Discourses of Power and Desire in the Machiavelli-Vettori Letters of 1513–1515 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), p 225.

[10] Machiavelli, Discourses, p.154.

[Editor’s Note: This is a selection from “On Political Power and Personal Liberty in The Prince and The Discourses” from the spring 2014 issue of Social Research: An International Quarterly.]

Jo Ann Cavallo (Ph.D., Yale, 1987) is professor of Italian at Columbia University and an Associated Scholar of the Mises Institute. Her latest book, The World beyond Europe in the Romance Epics of Boiardo and Ariosto (2013), won the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies (2011).

See Jo Ann Cavallo's article archives.

© 2014 Copyright Jo Ann Cavallo - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

© 2005-2019 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules