Friday, June 26, 2015

Machiavelli on cycles

The concept of a cyclical nature of rise and fall of political entities goes back a long way.  Here is Machiavelli's thoughts on it.
It may be observed, that provinces amid the vicissitudes to which they are subject, pass from order into confusion, and afterward recur to a state of order again; for the nature of mundane affairs not allowing them to continue in an even course, when they have arrived at their greatest perfection, they soon begin to decline. In the same manner, having been reduced by disorder, and sunk to their utmost state of depression, unable to descend lower, they, of necessity, reascend; and thus from good they gradually decline to evil, and from evil again return to good.  
The reason is, that valor produces peace; peace, repose; repose, disorder; disorder, ruin; so from disorder order springs; from order virtue, and from this, glory and good fortune. Hence, wise men have observed, that the age of literary excellence is subsequent to that of distinction in arms; and that in cities and provinces, great warriors are produced before philosophers. Arms having secured victory, and victory peace, the buoyant vigor of the martial mind cannot be enfeebled by a more excusable indulgence than that of letters; nor can indolence, with any greater or more dangerous deceit, enter a well regulated community.
Although I don't completely ascribe to his theory, it is notable that our move to a large standing professional army (a national mercenary force) somewhat mirrors Rome turning away from its citizen's armies toward a professional standing force.  This of course leaves the folks back home with more time to chatter and talk about things.

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