The Prince

Governance in Lao Tzu and Machiavelli College

Philosophers have waxed long and eloquent on the ideal government and therefore the ideal sovereign; this short essay will serve to compare two works on the subject, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and Machiavelli’s The Prince. This paper will analyze three main points of contention between these authors. First, it will consider the author’s view on the character of humanity and how the people should be expected to act. Second, it will assess what sort of government and sovereign is required to manage a nation populated by such a people. Last, it will compare the thoughts of each author on the defense of the nation and what that should require of both the sovereign and the people. While each philosopher gives very different answers to the same questions, both writings are ultimately honest attempts to improve the lives of those being ruled.

Any comparison of two philosophical works must begin with an introduction of the works in question. Within the pages of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu’s semi-poetic writings warn the reader of the dangers of ambition and materialism, while simultaneously exalting the character of man. Lao Tzu argues that people must only follow the Tao, the ‘way,’ to find not only contentment in individual life but also...

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