A good leader is one who can stand up against the norm and take risks to uphold their state. According to Machiavelli, in his book The Prince, this includes taking actions that are not favored by the majority. Though Machiavelli was born on May 3rd, 1469 and only wrote his book in 1513, his ideas were so significant that they apply even to contemporary leaders. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, is facing situations that can either prove her strength as a leader or set the European Union on a road to destruction.
On top of dealing with the major Greek debt crisis, she has been faced with the task of deciding how to handle the Syrian refugees. Using the examples and analysis provided by Machiavelli, Merkel’s best plan would be to pressure Greece into reforming their economy, and, instead of preventing immigration or giving refugees too much support, she should put them back on their feet and make them work for the government. One of the most prominent ideas Machiavelli stressed was the necessity to have a balanced rule: a ruler should be neither completely good nor bad, neither moral nor immoral and neither loved nor feared.
By maintaining a delicate balance between these fundamentals, Machiavelli theorizes that a ruler could easily remain in power and successfully transfer their throne to an heir. But what is arguably one of the most important of these ideas is that one should be neither completely loved nor feared. To explain why it is so important to maintain a neutral image in this respect, Machiavelli warns what could happen at both extremes. In Chapter XVII, Machiavelli explains that a leader that is loved is too easily taken advantage of; when the people begin to realize that they can commit rimes without punishment, they become greedy and benefit themselves through dishonest ways, which may even cause the ruler to lose power.
On the other hand, one who is feared too much will not survive well as a ruler. This is because too much fear leads to hatred, and Machiavelli could not further highlight the repercussions that come with such an impression, which include possible rebellions. As a result, it is evident that, no matter what course of actions Angela Merkel will take, it will be a narrow ridge of success dividing deep valleys of chaos.
Recently, the New York Times predicted that over 1,000,000 people may make their way into Germany. In her current state of proceedings, it will be hard for Merkel to handle the influx of migrants. The New York Times describes many efforts made to create asylum for refugees by converting houses into shelters. Because she has been treating the migrants well, she has been burdened with the expectation of providing them aid indefinitely. This is just as Machiavelli mentions.
These actions are only attracting more migrants, allowing them to take advantage of the free services provided by Germany, as civilians would of a loved ruler back in Machiavelli’s time. Of course, on the opposite side of the spectrum, Germany can fence off their borders and push migrants out. But these actions would ruin Germany’s image and push the problem on to other countries who would then resent Germany. Thus, there seems to be no easy way of working out this situation without terrible loss.
However, combining the advice of Machiavelli with a little modern zest, there appears to be a happy medium that could even benefit Germany: just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps, Merkel can approach this situation in a similar manner. Merkel could use the Syrians to improve German infrastructure, but also teach them work skills, so that they may assimilate into normal society. This fits perfectly into Machiavelli’s ideas emphasizing the fortification of a state during peace in Chapter X.
Machiavelli never directly assesses conflicts in terms of economics, as the economy in his time was not as developed as it is today. So if any of his advice were to be applied to the Greek debt crisis, solutions would need to be drawn from some of his more general ideas. Yet, these general ideas are so versatile that they almost completely relate to this situation, the first and foremost being that to promote change, it is best to use force.
In Chapter XV, Machiavelli explains that using a treaty does not as effectively produce results as the use of force does, because a treaty allows the other side room to maneuver, and even change their minds. A treaty has the potential to backfire and create bad relations that the treaty was trying to prevent. Another mistake Machiavelli mentions involves the idea that one should not be liberal in charging taxes on their citizens. In Chapter XVI, Machiavelli describes that being generous and lenient only wastes money, leaving the ruler poor, and despised for the lack of governing as a result.
This advice is also applicable for economies in general, because being lenient and accepting less tax revenue will not make anyone any happier than they were before or solve any problems. As a result, Machiavelli would advise against toleration, suggesting that one needs to deal with these matters using firm rule. Nevertheless, Merkel will need to apply force with caution, because any step too far could spark a major conflict. Greece has accumulated over 300 billion euros of debt, according to The Telegraph.
Such an unimaginably large amount, however, cannot be removed through simple bailouts to try and pay it off; since May 2010, Angela Merkel has been trying to relieve Greece of their debt in hopes that Greece would reform their economy in time to hold their own weight. Of course, this act violates two of Machiavelli’s primary principles: to resort to force for change and to be firm with money. It is selfevident that trusting Greece to reform on their own did not work, and that Merkel’s bailout only allowed them to slip further into debt.
According to The Guardian, only a fraction of the money went to reform programs, while the rest went to banks. So in an effort to reverse the economy’s direction, force and guidance, not relief, is required to push sweeping reforms throughout Greece’s economy. As a result, one of the best courses of action would be to pressure Greece into putting more of their money towards reform programs by threatening them. Already, Merkel has informed Greece that the EU could manage well on its own without Greece.
Merkel can also warn Greece that they will no longer receive any more bailouts, informing them that they need to use the money they have left wisely for economic stimuli. Throughout the book, Machiavelli always reminds the reader that it is ability, not luck, which makes a good prince. Fortune can only present opportunities, but it is up to the leader to take them. In Merkel’s case, her opportunities are her crises, which give her a chance to demonstrate her strength, skill and leadership. And, if she can handle the most difficult issues of her career, she will be revered as one of the most powerful and influential women of all time.