A book review of ‘The Prince’ by Niccolo\' Machiavelli, explaining, in particular, what the book reveals about Rule Of Law.


‘This Barbarian tyranny stinks in all nostrils’ – one of the last lines of ‘The Prince’, a book written by Niccolo\' Machiavelli in 1513, which was primarily intended to serve as a guide to Lorenzo Di Medici’s Government to permit Italy to be free of foreign occupation and invasions. Lorenzo did not accept to abide with this guide and this book was later (1959) listed on the Pope’s Index of Prohibited Books. Today, ‘The Prince’, remains one of the most important works in Western political thought and had also been a point of reference for studies and suggestions for great world leaders such as: Cromwell, Frederick the Great, Louis the 14th, Napolean, Bismark and Kennedy.



Much of the text is related to ‘...how such states (Princedoms) are to be governed and maintained’. In it, Machiavelli analysis\'s the various types of monarchies, analysis\'s of the different types of states, how they may be obtained, and how they should be ruled. He also describes how power is seized and retained, how to rule the military forces and, the essence of his work, how a prince should act in all circumstances in order to accomplish these tasks. Machiavelli tried to construct a society that decreases exploitation and increases the well being of the populace. People are always ready to change masters since people only care about their personal conveniences. The noble people, or barons, are those who can easily give power to the Prince, but they can easily chop off his head since they have a share of his power. So the least threatening people are the common people, and a ruler should have faith in his citizenry since upon finding their land threatened by external forces, the Prince can rely on their capabilities. Therefore, it is important that a ruler is able to create laws that do not need to be altered. And here Machiavelli pointed out the example of Sparta, which was able to maintain its self for eight hundred years without changing any law. He argues that if the Prince can commit himself to these laws, and therefore not taking people’s wives and property, then he will not be assassinated, can remain powerful, and will have the support of his citizens in times of war. Therefore, Rule of Law is the ‘magic-wand’.


Rule of Law is the principle that laws should govern the country and not men. Laws of our own making and not the cruel edicts of tyrant dictators that are made solely for their own benefits so as they manage power how they want. The rule of law also means that people do not have to answer to the arbitrary decisions of governmental officials, instead, they guide their actions by what is prohibited by a clearly defined law. Government officials can be compared to the ‘Prince’ in Machiavelli’s work as presenting a desirable front of society. Yet, unfortunately, once they are behind the confines of their castle, they are free to exploit and abuse their powers, as they think necessary, either for personal or national gain. A perfect example of this exploitation would be the following: President Clinton when he was found guilty of the charges brought before the White House, the rule of law requires that he should be removed from the Presidential position. However, going against the rule of law, a system of polls was invented to show that the people did not want President Clinton to be removed. In fact, the ‘rule of the majority’ won, overriding the Rule of Law – a major breakdown in the constitution.



Machiavelli also advises that free republics are the ones that are difficult to occupy since they have been accustomed to their own liberty ‘…so the safest way is to destroy them or to reside there.’ Iraq would be a straightforward project for Machiavelli.


‘Those accustomed to live under a Prince, and his line is extinguished, he argued, it will be impossible for the citizens, used, on the one hand, to obey, and deprived, on the other, of their old ruler, to agree to choose a leader from among themselves; and as they know not how to live as freemen, and