In this excerpt from The Discourses, Italian writer Niccolò
Machiavelli discusses six types of government—three good and
[T]he three bad ones result from the degradation of the other
three. . . . Thus monarchy becomes tyranny; aristocracy degenerates
into oligarchy; and the popular government lapses readily into
licentiousness [lack of restraint].
[S]agacious legislators . . . have chosen one that should partake
of all of them, judging that to be the most stable and solid. In fact,
when there is combined under the same constitution a prince, a
nobility, and the power of the people, then these three powers will
watch and keep each other reciprocally in check.
Why does Machiavelli think a combined government is the
best type of government?
Garcilaso de la Vega
This description of government administration
comes from Garcilaso’s history of the Inca.
[Local administrators] were obliged each lunar
month to furnish their superiors . . . with a record
of the births and deaths that had occurred in the
territory administered by them. . . .
[E]very two years . . . the wool from the royal
herds was distributed in every village, in order
that each person should be decently clothed
during his entire life. It should be
recalled that . . . the people . . .
possessed only very few cattle,
whereas the Inca’s and the Sun’s
herds were . . . numerous. . . . Thus
everyone was always provided with
clothing, shoes, food, and all that is
necessary in life.
What and how did the Incan
authorities provide for the common
Descriptions of Government
The following passages were written by writers who were reflecting not only on
the past, but also on places and events they had personally witnessed.
1. How do Osaka Castle and Topkapi Palace project the
importance of their owners? Explain.
2. Does Machiavelli favor a system of government that would
provide directly for people’s needs? Explain.
Use the library to get some additional information about the
government structure of the Incan Empire and Renaissance
Venice. Then draw an organizational chart for each of those
governments like the charts on page 580.