Machiavelli is often considered unethical, vile, and even the beginning of political decline. Be that as it may, the political realm is heavily Machiavellian. Few citizens would outright admit they prefer such a government, and many reject the idea while their actions demonstrate otherwise. The quote is incorrect in stating objection to Machiavellianism is hypocrisy, though it is correct people prefer it. In the following this cognitive dissonance will be discussed, and evidence weighing in favor of a Machiavellian preference.
No nation would willingly give up power, territory, or sovereignty. This is counter to its self-interest. The people may not understand this, but those in power do. The primary goal of the prince is to secure and maintain his position. The same can be said of modern day nations and its leaders. Machiavelli argues the prince must be purely focused on the craft of war, both literally and politically. The most recent modern example is the US intervention in Iraq and Syria, as well as our sanctions against Russia. For the past few decades US foreign policy has been incredibly Machiavellian, and could be described as a reckless and unwise application of Machiavellian thought. The defining detail of the foreign policy is its preemptive approach to crushing any potential or possible threat. In hindsight citizens are quick to judge the interventions as immoral or miscalculated, but they enjoy the spoils of being part of the hegemon no less. There is a cognitive dissonance among the people in that they outwardly claim a superior moral position that is counter to Machiavellian values, and at the same time prefer the security and products which the hegemonic regime can afford. Machiavelli insists that humans are fickle and easily bought. In present society this is all too apparent, moral objections are put aside for the sake of the newest pleasure or product. Only a small minority would willingly sacrifice these comforts for the sake of embodying their moral values. Hegemonic foreign policy is inherently Machiavellian, the citizens enjoy the benefits that come with that despite their objection to the self-interested and often unethical decisions it is built upon.
In domestic affairs citizens expect security and liberty to pursue their interests. Machiavelli observes that humans are perpetually dissatisfied and restless. The prince has two threats, external forces and his own subjects. Therefore it is in his best interest to secure the favor of the people, which means they are able to relatively satisfy their desires, if only temporary. The average citizen is self-interested and prefers a society in which there is the stability to pursue those interests. Again the citizen may outwardly oppose Machiavellian values, but perhaps that is the cost of maintaining the preferred order. This is not hypocritical of the citizen, for either they are oblivious to what it cost to maintain this order or they genuinely believe their government is virtuous and good. Citizens are inclined to strongly prefer what is aesthetically pleasing. Citizens want to own nice things, but do not want to acknowledge local poverty. Citizens want international security, but do not want to see photos of the wounded and dead. It is in the self-interest of the prince to provide this ever renewing illusion, for if the people can pursue their arbitrary whims they are less likely to become discontent with the regime in power.
Machiavelli insists the prince cannot be absolutely virtuous, and often he must go against what is considered virtuous for the sake of himself and the state. By default there is preference to be virtuous, but if necessary it is essential to do what must be done even if it acts against virtue. Machiavelli has no qualms about this:he people do not need to know this, and truthfully do not wish to know this. Again observed in US foreign policy, it is better to win the people’s support by spinning a façade of moral righteousness than acknowledge the unattractive Machiavellian truth of the matter. Religion and similar moral positions are to be used to gain support from the people, which reinforces the people’s sense of morality in themselves as well as the state. Christian values and virtuous behavior alone cannot sustain the state, and the prince must know when it is necessary to use virtue and when to use vice. Though the façade of virtuosity is useful, the prince must always assert presence through power. As Machiavelli is infamously known for saying, “it is better to be feared than loved”. The people prefer a strong leader that is both feared and respected. No matter how much they curse authority, in the end they need it and desire it to maintain the societal order they are used to. It is denial to object, not hypocritical.
The statement that anyone who objects to Machiavellianism is being hypocritical is not altogether true. It is most likely they are oblivious to the politics ‘behind the scenes’, or are so naïve as to think the state is actually virtuous and good. Citizens do not mind enjoying the pleasures and comfort that less than ethical politics provides them. Humans insist on rugged individualism and independence, though what they actually desire is order and security. It is not hypocrisy, rather the common habit of deceiving oneself.