Machiavelli on the Values of Foresight and Prompt Action in Statecraft as in Medicine

DECEMBER 1, 2007

[After describing how the Romans behaved towards other powers both large and small] Because the Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do – taking care to concern themselves not only with present troubles, but also future ones. For these they prepared with every effort, because, when distant, it is easy to forestall them; but when left until near they are impossible to prevent. It happens then as it does to physicians in the treatment of of consumption, which in the commencement is easy to cure and difficult to understand; but when it has neither been discovered in time nor treated upon a proper principle, becomes easy to understand and difficult to cure. The same thing happens in state affairs; by foreseeing them at a distance, which is only done by men of wisdom , the evils which might arise from them are soon cured; but when, from want of foresight, they are suffered to increase to such a degree they are perceptible to everyone, there is no longer a remedy.

– Machiavelli, The Prince (1513) Gutenberg version