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Governance Per Mac The Knife

By       Message Stephen Pizzo     Permalink
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Big O. should have had greater a respect for the enemies he knew would have to be vanquished. After all, these maundering Huns the health insurance companies, Wall Streeters and big banks had enjoyed decades of unfettered looting and pillaging. And they would not go quietly. Then Barack became the new sheriff in town. But, rather than laying down the law, he just laid down one a big ass mistake, according to Mac The Knife:

The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders (read "conservative Dems") in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.

But Obama came to us as the prophet preaching a "new era of bi-partisanship." And, we the people, exhausted and disgusted by more than three-decades of virtual political and social gridlock, longed for the same. But simply singing "Give Peace a Chance," while the enemy gins up another rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," is something Mac The Knife would find absurdly naïve:

It is necessary, therefore, if we desire to discuss this matter thoroughly, to inquire whether the innovator can rely on himself or have to depend on others: that is to say, whether, to consummate their enterprise, have they to use prayers
(read "hope") or they use force? In the first instance they always succeed badly, and never accomplish anything; but when they can rely on themselves and use force, then they are rarely endangered. Hence it is that all armed prophets have conquered, and the unarmed ones have been destroyed.
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The Knife understood people like Obama, who come to high office with highfalutin notions of reforming, not just government, but human nature itself. And, need I tell, Mac had little patience for it:

Those who solely by good fortune become princes from being private citizens, have little trouble in rising, but much in keeping atop; they have few difficulties on the way up, because they fly, but they have many when they reach the summit. Such stand simply upon the goodwill and the fortune of those who has elevated them- the two most inconstant and unstable things. Neither have they the knowledge requisite for the position; because, unless they are men of great worth and ability, it is not reasonable to expect that they should know how to command, having always lived in a private condition; besides, they cannot hold it because they have not forces of their own which they can keep friendly and faithful.
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Barack Obama is not a likable guy by accident. He's gotten where he is today through a combination of awesome brain-power and a sparkling personality. As such he values likability over causing offense. Yet, at the same time, he wants to do good while in office. But, if he takes my advice and re-reads Mac's book, he'll understand that eventually he's going to have to give up one or the other:

Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil... The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.

Finally there's the machinations of the enemy forces. Republicans and those invested in the status quo are not interested in being liked, or even respected. Instead they are interested in being sure nothing restricts their looting and pillaging as usual. As such they will fight dirty... oops.. wait, there's no such thing as a fair fight. I almost forgot. Which explains the so-called "Tea Party" folk.

Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that deceivers will never lack victims for their deceptions.

And so there you have it. We are still, at the core, a vicious, deceitful and conniving species. And nowhere more than in the political arena. I wish it were otherwise. I wish we'd evolved beyond all this. And, I am sure Barack Obama wishes so as well. But if wishes came true, 50 million Americans would not be without health insurance and bankers and Wall Streeters would be satisfied to earn millions while staying within the law and bounds of good taste.

But none of that is so. When I testified before Congress in 1991 I warned that they not repeal Glass-Steagall until someone first could assure them that the laws of human nature had been repealed first. They did it anyway and, well, you know the rest of that story.

So, all I'm saying here is not that Obama can learn anything uplifting from Machiavelli's open-eyed advice about ruling, just that most of it still applies. And he is in the hole he's in right now because he decided to pretend it didn't.

Memo to Barry: We need that freakin omelet out here, amigo. So knock off the Mr. Nice Guy act and start breaking some goddamn eggs!

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a (more...)

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