On May 27, Scowcroft Vice President and Director Matthew Kroenig penned an article for Foreign Policy assessing the efficacy of democracy and autocracy by invoking the international relations perspectives of renowned diplomat and author Niccolò Machiavelli.

While Machiavelli is most famous for The Prince, a “guidebook for dictators,” his perspectives were best conveyed in Discourses on Livy: a “full-throated defense of democracy”. Using Machiavelli’s own arguments, and as argued in his chapter in The New Makers of Modern Strategy: From the Ancient World to the Digital Age, Kroenig asserts that democracies achieve more longevity and stability than autocracies due to their checks and balances, history of self-correcting wrongs, and the ability for public discourse to temper ill-considered policies.

Machiavelli was not making an argument about the morality or wisdom of democratic or autocratic leaders – but of institutional constraints. Democratic leaders often want to exploit their position, but they will be constrained by laws, institutions, and other branches of government. Dictators may want to be magnanimous, but since there is little standing in their way, they will always be tempted to maximize their own well-being at the expense of the nation.

Matthew Kroenig

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