How to Choose a Leader: Machiavelli’s Advice to Citizens is a commendable work by author Maurizio Viroli on the traits that citizens should look for when choosing a leader. The book, published in the United States in 2016, was timely as Americans were busy with the presidential campaign that ultimately led to Donald Trump’s ascendance to power as the 45th President. The author frequently draws examples from the U.S and its leaders, in particular former President Abraham Lincoln, and how Machiavelli’s description of a leader has been observed within various U.S. leaders across history. It is as if the author is mainly advising American citizens on what kind of a leader to choose as their next president at a moment when Obama’s tenure in the White House was about to end. The author extracts the advice from Machiavelli’s own works such as The Prince and Discourses on Livy.
One of Viroli’s aims is to refute the common perception that Machiavelli was a ‘teacher of evil’ who knew nothing about democracy or liberty. The author argues that Machiavelli, who he often refers to as ‘Our Counselor,’ was in fact a political thinker who was honest, believed in the principles of liberty and the common good, and who sincerely loved his country. Viroli divides the book into twenty lessons, each lesson presented as a chapter on its own. Distinguishable quotations from Machiavelli’s oeuvre are placed as titles of the chapters to introduce the ideas which Viroli elaborates, using examples drawn mainly from the American setting. In this way, the author succeeds at incorporating Machiavelli’s work in a modern-day political context while providing a much simpler wording. The book mainly advises citizens on what kind of leaders to choose and warns about the kind of leaders to avoid.
In lesson one, citizens are urged by Machiavelli to “keep their hands on the republic” by practicing their civic duty of votin