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Machiavelli on Trusting: How to Trust Again in 2017? Start with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the UN

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FULL SPEECH: This is Justin Trudeau's first address to the United Nations General Assembly as Canada seeks to be given a seat on the Security Council. To read more: cbc.ca/1.3759656

[Trudeau is an excellent example of a leader developing trust between a population and a government responsive to their wants and needs. This is what Machiavelli would consider forming a "gratitude" relationship between the government and the people. This speech is from September 20, 2016, but is timeless in the sense of exemplifying what Machiavelli meant by Trusting, as compared to the rest of the world's leaders.

The better to discuss this I premise that the vice of ingratitude* arises either from avarice or from suspicion." Discourse 29

*ingratitude means lack of trust

A summary of Discourses 28 -- 32

If a government has been able to maintain the liberties for its population, the people and the government tend to trust and appreciate each other. The two basic reasons for a lack of trust between governments and populations are avarice on the part of the leaders and the suspicion of wrong-doing by the government or the population. There is no excuse for avarice since it is without redeeming aspects for the general good and destroys trust. Lack of trust in the government or population is excusable when there is a well founded suspicion of wrong-doing. Whenever there is a failure in trust, the government must maintain sufficient power to keep the civil order. The collapse of trust by either the population or the government can lead to tyranny or anarchy.

A prince can not allow a citizen to acquire greater power with the population than the prince. Therefore the prince, instead of being grateful for the citizen's good works, must demean or destroy that individual. However, when there are so many leaders working for the good of the state that none stands out strongly, there is no threat to the government. They all should be honored for their accomplishments but not punished for their failures lest that discourage others from taking necessary risks. Where a failure is caused by ego enhancement, the failure should not be punished but the leaders held responsible for their failures.

The popular support of a government in times of difficulty is dependent upon how the government has treated the population during good times. When there is a history of the government supporting the people, the people will trust and support the government. In cases where a strongman has risen from the population to take away those liberties, even after liberties have been restored, the government will not trust the population to maintain order.

Contemporary Reflections:

Machiavelli believed that a lack of trust in the government is excusable while the corruption of avarice is not excusable. The population of the United States is starting to recognize the corruption of the government through avarice and trust has waned.


Gratitude, as a concept, is disappearing in today's social context, often there is a dollar value attached to "gratitude." We give a gratuity to reimburse a speaker for the costs of coming to speak and are expected to show our gratitude for bribes received. In individual relations "thank yous" are becoming less common. The social focus over the years has changed and where Machiavelli uses the word "ingratitude," often it will be better to think of it as "a lack of trust."

Distrust in national governments has been spreading throughout Europe and the United States during the twenty-first Century. Its underlying cause is corporate and personal avarice with the related corporate and individual accumulation of wealth. Wealth and power are concentrating in corporations that are "too large to fail." The top five percent of the world's population holds well over half the world's wealth and U.S. corporations control fifty percent of the world's wealth. This has produced a suspicion of wrong-doing in the European and U. S. populations.

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Mr. Webster is a 90 year-old retired math teacher who taught for over 30 years. He was the director of an alternative public high school program. He has a BS from the Institute of Design, Chicago and an Ms (math) from the Illinois Institute of (more...)
 
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