Dear Reader (And purveyors of fine Jewish Space Lasers everywhere),
I liked the TV show House of Cards for a while, but gave up on it in the third season when it took a ridiculous turn. (Rather than bore those of you who understandably don’t care about that, I’ve cut the first 500 words of this “news”letter and made it into a sidebar.)
In the show, Frank and Claire Underwood were murderous, conniving, and cruel political operators who would stop at next to nothing to gain power. The thing I liked about the show was that it asked a fun question: What would modern American politics look like with protagonists who practice pre-modern politics?
You see, in the grand sweep of human history, the political ethics practiced by the Underwoods are normal. In every civilization known to man, the powerful—or at least many of them—schemed, blackmailed, and murdered in private while extolling virtue in public. Machiavelli never said, “Politics have no relation to morals”—despite what all the quotation sites say—but it’s not a terrible summary of his attitude.