Benjamin Ginsberg


On his book The American Lie: Government by the People and Other Political Fables

Cover Interview of December 05, 2008

Editor’s note

Originally, this interview ran on the Rorotoko cover page under the headline

“Political freedom must include freedom from politics and freedom to take part in politics.”

We highlighted two quotes.

On the first page:

“Five hundred years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli dedicated his masterpiece of political realism, The Prince, to Florentine ruler Lorenzo de’ Medici whose favor Machiavelli hoped win.  In truth, Lorenzo did not need Machiavelli’s advice; he already practiced what Machiavelli preached.  Whether in the 16th century or the 21st, those who need a firmer understanding of political realities are credulous citizens, not calculating and rapacious princes.”

On the second:

“Public opinion is not an autonomous and immutable force that politicians must discover and obey.  The will of the people is, instead, a rather pliable phenomenon usually created by the very individuals and groups who claim to submit to it. [...]  Any resultant consistency between citizen opinion and political or policy outcomes is more a reflection of the common origins of the two phenomena than a tribute to the power of public opinion.”