Friday, July 6, 2012

Denny And The Prince*

Yesterday, the ever concise Bob Mercer analyzed Governor Daugaard's claim to have created "a culture of fiscal restraint."
Those seven words began the latest weekly column issued from Gov. Dennis Daugaard, in which he talks about state agencies returning $13 million of unspent funds from their 2012 budgets, which closed June 30. He also talked about tax revenues and other general collections being up 7.3 percent through the first 11 months of the 2012 fiscal year. Those seven words are fascinating as a political statement, because they reflect directly upon the previous management under the Rounds administration, in which Daugaard was lieutenant governor. The full sentence says, “Under a new culture of fiscal restraint, our state agencies are not spending every dollar they were allocated."
Cory adds a broader analysis here.

Less than a month ago, Daugaard inserted himself into some legislative primaries to support establishment candidates over tea party types.  Now he's criticizing his predecessor.  Something about this situation reminded me of Machiavelli's The Prince. Machiavelli famously tells leaders to merge the primary qualities of both the lion and the fox:
A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.
The Governor acted the role of the lion in the primaries; those results were mixed.   Now, he's copying the sly fox.

For his sake, I hope the Governor reads the entire book; Machiavelli warns leaders to avoid being hated. The Governor seems to be picking fights that may make it impossible to avoid hatred.  Machiavelli has a solution:
. . . princes cannot help being hated by someone, they ought, in the first place, to avoid being hated by every one, and when they cannot compass this, they ought to endeavour with the utmost diligence to avoid the hatred of the most powerful.
I don't know whether Rounds or the tea party represents the "most powerful." so I suggest the Governor follow one last bit of Machiavelli's advice:
I say that a prince may be seen happy to-day and ruined to-morrow without having shown any change of disposition or character. This, I believe, arises firstly from causes that have already been discussed at length, namely, that the prince who relies entirely upon fortune is lost when it changes. I believe also that he will be successful who directs his actions according to the spirit of the times, and that he whose actions do not accord with the times will not be successful. Because men are seen, in affairs that lead to the end which every man has before him, namely, glory and riches, to get there by various methods; one with caution, another with haste; one by force, another by skill; one by patience, another by its opposite; and each one succeeds in reaching the goal by a different method. One can also see of two cautious men the one attain his end, the other fail; and similarly, two men by different observances are equally successful, the one being cautious, the other impetuous; all this arises from nothing else than whether or not they conform in their methods to the spirit of the times.
In short, the Governor seems to be trying to keep up with the spirit of the times and avoid relying on luck to keep the party behind him.  Of course, Machiavelli never held power, so it's not clear that following his advice will work, but the Governor seems to be doing his best to apply Machiavelli's principles.

*I should show the Governor a bit more respect, but when the title of the post can also be a band name for either a 1950s fold duo or a pair of 21st century hip hop artists, I just can't resist

No comments: