Tag Archives: municipal politics

Han Fei’s Ten Lessons

Han FeiLong before Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his now-famous work of political philosophy, The Prince, there was another man writing in a similar vein in China. And his words have important lessons that can prove useful, even today, for our own politicians.

Han Fei was a prince in the Han Kingdom in the third century BCE. He was a member of and spokesperson for the “legalistic” school. In his short life he wrote 55 books – short essays we would probably call chapters today – assembled into the Han Feizi.*

One of the few English-language versions of Han Fei Tzu is Burton Watson’s translation (Columbia University Press, 1964). Reading it today, I am fascinated at the relevance of these ancient words to today’s politics. Even though he was writing in a vastly different political climate, a different culture and a different technological era, like Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, his comments on politics and leadership still resonate in today’s world.

One of his books was called The Ten Faults, and I reproduce here the opening synopsis of that book from Watson:**

These are the ten faults:

  1. To practice petty loyalty and thereby betray a larger loyalty;
  2. To fix your eye on a petty gain and thereby lose a larger one;
  3. To behave in a base and willful manner and show no courtesy to the other feudal lords, thereby bringing about your own downfall;
  4. To give no ear to government affairs, but long only for the sound of music, thereby plunging yourself into distress;
  5. To be greedy, perverse and too fond of profit, thereby opening the way to the destruction of the state, and your own demise;
  6. To become infatuated with women musicians and disregard state affairs, thereby inviting the disaster of national destruction;
  7. To leave the palace for distant travels, despising the remonstrances of your ministers, which leads to grave peril for yourself;
  8. To fail to heed your loyal ministers when you are at fault, insisting upon having your own way, which will in time destroy your good reputation and make you a laughing stock of others;
  9. To take no account of internal strength but rely solely upon your allies abroad, which places the state in grave danger of dismemberment;
  10. To ignore the demands of courtesy, though your state is small, and fail to learn from the remonstrances of our ministers, acts which lead to the downfall of your line.

Change a few words – ministers to councillors, music to sycophants, feudal lords to staff… you can see how well these ideas and admonitions fit into today’s local political arena. So here is my modern analysis of Han Fei’s words.

Continue reading

77 total views, 1 views today

Welcome to The Municipal Machiavelli: The Prince Rewritten

MachiavelliThis is an online version of a book I wrote in 2012. My goal was to modernize Machiavelli’s famous work, The Prince, and return its attention to its original audience: municipal politicians. It has not been published in a paper version, yet, but I am still looking for a suitable publisher. I am also working on an e-book  and iPad version should I not find a book publisher.

I chose to publish it in this WordPress format now because, after recent events at the local level in my own municipality, I felt it was of great and growing relevance to the daily political business of municipal governance. I do admit to some tongue-in-cheekiness in my comments in these pages, however.

2013 is the 500th anniversary since the writing of The Prince (it wasn’t published until 1532, after Machiavelli’s death). I felt it only fitting to update Machiavelli and bring back the audience he first wrote for. Municipal politicians are often overlooked when scholars dissect Machiavelli, and that’s a big oversight given who Machiavelli originally wrote for. I hope I can in some small way contribute to restoring him to his audience.

This site is somewhat of a work in progress. I am always tweaking with layout and design, so I apologize in advance if you find it changing rather too often.

I have laid this site out using the chapters and sections of the book, including all of the prefatory material, addenda and bibliography. My chapters parallel Machiavelli’s own in The Prince, although the chapter titles are somewhat different. It has approx. 65,000 words. I am still looking for some historical material through online booksellers, and may add content to the bibliography or additional quotations to the core material, in future. I have an outline for a chapter on Machiavelli and Rhetoric, too.

I use many quotes taken from a wide range of sources to buttress both my own interpretations and Machiavelli’s own arguments – Han Fei Tzu, Sun Tzu, Napoleon, Robert Greene, Cicero and others. Quotations lifted from Machiavelli’s book have often been modified to make them clearer or to phrase them in more modern language. In doing so, I used many different translations of his works to find the most appropriate wording, as noted in the bibliography. More than 450 of the main quotes from the book are displayed in the sidebar quotation widget

I take full responsibility for any misquotes, any mistakes, typos, misinterpretations, and bad ideas.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am working on a version for e-book, iTunes and PDF. Please contact me if you would like a copy.

This work is copyright 2012 under international law by Ian Chadwick. Please do not reproduce any part of it it without prior permission, except as per fair use clauses and for reviews. Thank you for your consideration. I welcome your comments via email: ichadwick (at) rogers.com.

10,729 total views, 6 views today

Directory of pages in the Municipal Machiavelli