After 500 Years, A More Machiavellian World Than Ever

What would Niccolo Machiavelli, the author of "The Prince" (published exactly 500 years ago), have thought about modern China? What would he have done with the Internet?

What would Machiavelli say?
What would Machiavelli say?
Gianni Riotta

TURIN — Half a millennium after the publication of Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, one of the most brilliant books ever written on political theory, the world has become more Machiavellian than ever.

The United States, which has been democratic for more than two centuries and invented the Internet as a place of transparency, has now ended up in trouble for its National Security Agency (NSA) spying on allies. The former KBG agent, Vladimir Putin, in his semi-free country where independent journalists are murdered, welcomed NSA mole Edward Snowden as a political refugee, as he put on his laticlave and preached to the world about human rights and privacy.

Meanwhile, in Syria, just because President Bashar al-Assad is massacring his subjects doesn’t mean that he’ll meet the same fate as Hosni Mubarak or Muammar Gaddafi. He’s still in power in Damascus, a merciless and bloodthirsty character lifted right from the pages of Machiavelli, who pays no attention to his conscience, just to power and its cruel nature.

The clash between China, Japan and the U.S. over the minuscule Senkaku-Diaoyu islands oozes pure Machiavelli. Beijing implemented an “Air Defense Identification Zone” around the islands, Tokyo challenged it and Washington still sent B52s into the zone, declaring they would continue to carry out unregistered flights in the region.

In chapters 12-14, Machiavelli warns against troops borrowed from an ally because if they win, he is indebted to them. And if he loses, he is ruined. Thanks to the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, a threat to the islands would require the United States to come to Japan's aid.

Evil and ethics

Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is on the side of ethics? Machiavelli would have laughed at such questions. He would have explained to those interested, as he tried to do with those who wanted to rise, that where power and politics are concerned, moral questions and ethical integrity aren’t even factored in.

In this way, America, in a delicate and yet existential way, has been celebrating the 500th anniversary of The Prince diligently. Canadian philosopher and politician, Michael Ignatieff, in The Atlantic magazine, commends Machiavelli, remembering that Barack Obama’s choice to eliminate Osama bin Laden, was a Machiavellian moment of excellence, even if it was outside the bounds of moral and international rights.

The assassination of an enemy, as well as innocent bystanders around him — something condemnable by any democratic jury — was deemed pardonable by the Florentine writer. Obama, he would have said, did well to defend his republic with each decision he made. Yet, Machiavelli also praises restraint when it serves the republic. Ignatieff notes that it may even be advisable, for example, for the president to call off the cruise missiles to Syria if he cannot discern a clear target or a defensible strategic objective.

Five hundred years later and history has finally vindicated Machiavelli. Throughout the years he has been placed on the list of banned books in 1559 by the Pope and deemed by modern conservative political theorist Leo Strauss a “master of evil.”

New books argue that in order to understand Machiavelli’s brutal honesty, we must understand the times that produced him. These authors declare that he wasn’t “a gangster” of critical indulgence, but a patriot and a republican who fought for unification of the city-states that had too long been kept at odds, searching for a virtuous and true politician who was not superficial but capable of sacrifice and harsh choices.

He’s more alive than ever. Our world can be found in his: violence, hypocrisy, clashes of personalities and forces, as well as interests. The only thing that would surprise Machiavelli in this modern world is the web, the huge information network where The Prince would be subject to direct debate, analysis, criticism and censorship.

Trading in his evenings networking in taverns, Niccolò Machiavelli would have delved to the depths of the Internet to make his plans, plotting and looking for his Prince, using the new technology to bring him to government, and then, with the help of Big Data, keep him in power as long as possible.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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