Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Investing in a Bubble Mania Stock Market Trending Towards Financial Crisis 2.0 CRASH! - 9th Sep 21
2.Tech Stocks Bubble Valuations 2000 vs 2021 - 25th Sep 21
3.Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
4.Stock Market FOMO Hits September Brick Wall - Evergrande China's Lehman's Moment - 22nd Sep 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
7.AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
8.Why Silver Price Could Crash by 20%! - 5th Oct 21
9.Powell: Inflation Might Not Be Transitory, After All - 3rd Oct 21
10.Global Stock Markets Topped 60 Days Before the US Stocks Peaked - 23rd Sep 21
Last 7 days
Inflation and the Crazy Crypto Markets - 23rd Oct 21
Easy PC Upgrades with Motherboard Combos - Overclockers UK Unboxing - MB, Memory and Ryzen 5600x CPU - 23rd Oct 21
Gold Mining Stocks Q3 2021 - 23rd Oct 21
Gold calmly continues cobbling its Handle, Miners lay in wait - 23rd Oct 21
US Economy Has Been in an Economic Depression Since 2008 - 22nd Oct 21
Extreme Ratios Point to Gold and Silver Price Readjustments - 22nd Oct 21
Bitcoin $100K or Ethereum $10K—which happens first? - 22nd Oct 21
This Isn’t Sci-Fi: How AI Is About To Disrupt This $11 Trillion Industry - 22nd Oct 21
Ravencoin RVN About to EXPLODE to NEW HIGHS! Last Chance to Buy Before it goes to the MOON! - 21st Oct 21
Stock Market Animal Spirits Returning - 21st Oct 21
Inflation Advances, and So Does Gold — Except That It Doesn’t - 21st Oct 21
Why A.I. Is About To Trigger The Next Great Medical Breakthrough - 21st Oct 21
Gold Price Slowly Going Nowhere - 20th Oct 21
Shocking Numbers Show Government Crowding Out Real Economy - 20th Oct 21
Crude Oil Is in the Fast Lane, But Where Is It Going? - 20th Oct 21
3 Tech Stocks That Could Change The World - 20th Oct 21
Best AI Tech Stocks ETF and Investment Trusts - 19th Oct 21
Gold Mining Stocks: Will Investors Dump the Laggards? - 19th Oct 21
The Most Exciting Medical Breakthrough Of The Decade? - 19th Oct 21
Prices Rising as New Dangers Point to Hard Assets - 19th Oct 21
It’s not just Copper; GYX indicated cyclical the whole time - 19th Oct 21
Chinese Tech Stocks CCP Paranoia, VIES - Variable Interest Entities - 19th Oct 21
Inflation Peaked Again, Right? - 19th Oct 21
Gold Stocks Bouncing Hard - 19th Oct 21
Stock Market New Intermediate Bottom Forming? - 19th Oct 21
Beware, Gold Bulls — That’s the Beginning of the End - 18th Oct 21
Gold Price Flag Suggests A Big Rally May Start Soon - 18th Oct 21
Inflation Or Deflation – End Result Is Still Depression - 18th Oct 21
A.I. Breakthrough Could Disrupt the $11 Trillion Medical Sector - 18th Oct 21
US Economy and Stock Market Addicted to Deficit Spending - 17th Oct 21
The Gold Price And Inflation - 17th Oct 21
Went Long the Crude Oil? Beware of the Headwinds Ahead… - 17th Oct 21
Watch These Next-gen Cloud Computing Stocks - 17th Oct 21
Overclockers UK Custom Built PC 1 YEAR Use Review Verdict - Does it Still Work? - 16th Oct 21
Altonville Mine Tours Maze at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 16th Oct 21
How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
The Only way to Crush Inflation (not stocks) - 14th Oct 21
Why "Losses Are the Norm" in the Stock Market - 14th Oct 21
Sub Species Castle Maze at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 14th Oct 21
Which Wallet is Best for Storing NFTs? - 14th Oct 21
Ailing UK Pound Has Global Effects - 14th Oct 21
How to Get 6 Years Life Out of Your Overclocked PC System, Optimum GPU, CPU and MB Performance - 13th Oct 21
The Demand Shock of 2022 - 12th Oct 21
4 Reasons Why NFTs Could Be The Future - 12th Oct 21
Crimex Silver: Murder Most Foul - 12th Oct 21
Bitcoin Rockets In Preparation For Liftoff To $100,000 - 12th Oct 21
INTEL Tech Stock to the MOON! INTC 2000 vs 2021 Market Bubble WARNING - 11th Oct 21
AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
Stock Market Wall of Worry Meets NFPs - 11th Oct 21
Stock Market Intermediate Correction Continues - 11th Oct 21
China / US Stock Markets Divergence - 10th Oct 21
Can US Save Taiwan From China? Taiwan Strait Naval Battle - PLA vs 7th Fleet War Game Simulation - 10th Oct 21
Gold Price Outlook: The Inflation Chasm Between Europe and the US - 10th Oct 21
US Real Estate ETFs React To Rising Housing Market Mortgage Interest Rates - 10th Oct 21
US China War over Taiwan Simulation 2021, Invasion Forecast - Who Will Win? - 9th Oct 21
When Will the Fed Taper? - 9th Oct 21
Dancing with Ghouls and Ghosts at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 9th Oct 21
Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
Scan Computers - Custom Build PC 6 Months Later, Reliability, Issues, Quality of Tech Support Review - 8th Oct 21
Gold and Silver: Your Financial Main Battle Tanks - 8th Oct 21
How to handle the “Twin Crises” Evergrande and Debt Ceiling Threatening Stocks - 8th Oct 21
Why a Peak in US Home Prices May Be Approaching - 8th Oct 21
Alton Towers Scarefest is BACK! Post Pandemic Frights Begin, What it's Like to Enter Scarefest 2021 - 8th Oct 21
AJ Bell vs II Interactive Investor - Which Platform is Best for Buying US FAANG Stocks UK Investing - 7th Oct 21
Gold: Evergrande Investors' Savior - 7th Oct 21
Here's What Really Sets Interest Rates (Not Central Banks) - 7th Oct 21

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Feudalism and Cronyism in Machiavelli’s Italy

Economics / Economic Theory May 14, 2014 - 05:50 PM GMT



Jo Ann Cavallo writes: Although liberty is a recurring concern in Machiavelli’s writings, there is no consensus regarding either the definition of the concept or its relevance for his overall political thought. One direction of Machiavellian interpretation that has gained prominence in recent decades has focused on the concept of “libertas” in relation to a republican mode of government, even though Machiavelli’s use of liberty cannot be simply equated with republicanism. In tracing the various occurrences of the term in Machiavelli’s political works, Marcia Colish has pointed out that in the context of internal affairs “Machiavelli often connects libertà with certain personal rights and community benefits that characterize free states regardless of their constitutions.” She specifies, in fact, that “he clearly identifies freedom with the protection of private rights.”[1]

The most extreme form of aggression on private property is that upon one’s own person, negating the most basic right of self-ownership. In The Discourses, for example, uprooting men from their land is considered an act so horrendous that it is metaphorically equated with treating humans like animals. Commenting that Philip of Macedon “moved men from province to province as shepherds move their sheep,” Machiavelli remarks that this inhuman cruelty goes against universal law: “Such methods are exceedingly cruel, and are repugnant to any community, not only to a Christian one, but to any composed of men.” Indeed, in an uncompromising espousal of ethics over exigency, Machiavelli declares that not even the power of kingship can justify infringing upon human freedom in this way: “It behooves, therefore, every man to shun them, and to prefer rather to live as a private citizen than as a king with such ruination of men to his score.”[2]

Machiavelli imagines, moreover, how a condition of entitlement can be set into place ex nihilo through sheer political and military force:

Where considerable equality prevails, no one who proposes to set up a kingdom or principality, will ever be able to do it unless from that equality he selects many of the more ambitious and restless minds and makes of them gentry in fact and not in name, by giving them castles and possessions and making of them a privileged class with respect both to property and subjects; so that around him will be those with whose support he may maintain himself in power, and whose ambitions, thanks to him, may be realized. As to the rest they will be compelled to bear a yoke which nothing but force will ever be able to make them endure.[3]

In this scenario, political power both creates and feeds off of a system of privilege and parasitism. Citing Marc Bloch’s seminal Feudal Society, [Murray] Rothbard defines feudalism as “the seizure of land by conquest and the continuing assertion and enforcement of ownership over that land and the extraction of rent from peasants continuing to till the soil.”[4] In agreement with Locke’s ideas on the origin of rightful property ownership, Rothbard states: “It should be clear that here, just as in the case of slavery, we have a case of continuing aggression against the true owners — the true possessors — of the land, the tillers, or peasants, by the illegitimate owner, the man whose original and continuing claim to the land and its fruits has come from coercion and violence.”[5] Feudalism is thus one of the classic ways in which “the State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for predation on the property of the producers; it makes certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society.”[6]

I would contend, moreover, that Machiavelli goes beyond the specific issues related to taxation and private property to dissuade the prince from intervening in civil society (il vivere civile) more generally as well. During this period, it was not uncommon to find collusion between political and economic forces in society. Renaissance princes “pledged mining and trade monopolies”[7] while privileged families were “concerned about controlling the political situation in order to profit from the monti (public funds), to be able to obtain reductions on taxes and forced loans, to establish international relationships of privilege, or even to set up monopolies via official missions and with the backing of popes and kings.”[8] The Medici family was particularly notorious for using political power for economic advantage (and vice versa) ...

In contrast to the various forms of state corporatism operating in his day and continuing in our own, Machiavelli separates economic endeavors from political activity. As he wrote in a letter to his friend Francesco Vettori, “Fortune has seen to it that, since I do not know how to talk about either the silk or the wool trade, or profits or losses, I have to talk about the state.”[9] In pointing to his own limitations, Machiavelli is also envisioning economics and politics as two independent spheres, each requiring a different kind of expertise. In fact, in his political writing, he makes a point to assert that civil society can best flourish in the absence of government intrusion. In The Discourses he states that the common utility (commune utilità) of a free state (vivere libero) is “the possibility of enjoying what one has, freely and without incurring suspicion ..., the assurance that one’s wife and children will be respected, [and] the absence of fear for oneself.”[10]


[1] Marcia L. Colish, “The Idea of Liberty in Machiavelli,” Journal of the History of Ideas 32, no. 3 (1971): 323–350, esp. 325.

[2] Niccolò Machiavelli, The Discourses (London, New York: Penguin, 2003), p. 177.

[3] Ibid., p. 247.

[4] Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1982), p. 67n.

[5] Ibid., p 65.

[6] Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto (Auburn, AL: Mises Institute, [1973] 2011), p. 62.

[7] Lauro Martines, “The Renaissance and the Birth of Consumer Society,” Renaissance Quarterly 51, no. 1 (1998): 193–203, esp. 195.

[8] Vittore Branca, ed. “Introduction” to Merchant Writers of the Italian Renaissance: From Boccaccio to Machiavelli, pp.vii–xlix. Translated by Murtha Baca (New York: Marsilio, 1999), p. xi.

[9] John Najemy, Between Friends: Discourses of Power and Desire in the Machiavelli-Vettori Letters of 1513–1515 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), p 225.

[10] Machiavelli, Discourses, p.154.

[Editor’s Note: This is a selection from “On Political Power and Personal Liberty in The Prince and The Discourses” from the spring 2014 issue of Social Research: An International Quarterly.]

Jo Ann Cavallo (Ph.D., Yale, 1987) is professor of Italian at Columbia University and an Associated Scholar of the Mises Institute. Her latest book, The World beyond Europe in the Romance Epics of Boiardo and Ariosto (2013), won the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies (2011).

See Jo Ann Cavallo's article archives.

© 2014 Copyright Jo Ann Cavallo - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

© 2005-2019 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in