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Machiavelli, Essay Example

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Introduction

Most of Machiavelli’s advice, as portrayed in ‘The Prince’ largely disregarded any moral or ethical viewpoints.  In his ability to take control of lands, he provided advice to a Prince in a different era.  Some of this advice may still apply today. This paper explores the concepts in a modern setting.

” Because how one ought to live is so far removed from our lives that he who let go of what is done, for that which ought to do sooner learns ruin than his own preservation: because a man who might want to make a show of goodness in all things necessarily comes to ruin amongst so many who are not good. Because of this it is necessary for a Prince wanting to maintain himself, to learn how to be able to be not good and to use this and not use it according to necessity.” [1]

This advice is still provided to politicians today.  The ability to take control and maintain power over your domain. A new Prince has to work extremely hard to gain acceptance of his people. This equally applies to Presidents and rulers today.  This has been particularly played out in the Middle Eastern countries like Libya, Egypt and Syria where oppressive rulers have been over-thrown by the people.  Successful leaders consider the power base of the people and serve them towards equality, justice and freedom for all.

” … among the causes of evil which unarmed brings you, it makes you contemptible, which is one of those infamies against which the Prince must guard himself …”

This is a reference to the importance of being an armed state to avoid others treating you with contempt.  This remains true of all the major powers today.  Despite the motivation towards a peaceful global society, all of the major powers are heavily armed. The ability to be feared and as such still maintain a reputation of trust and seen as being a power or force for good.  There are still evil powers to crush like that of international organized terrorism.

“El etiam let him not care about incurring infamy for those vices without which he might hardly save the state; because if one considers everything well, one will find that something that appears a virtue, if followed, would be his ruin, and that some other thing that appears a vice, if followed results in his security and well-being…”

Machiavelli considered whether it is better for a Prince (ruler) to possess good qualities or evil qualities. In most cases, he came down in favour of evil being the most dominant power in order to retain political power.  He felt that the evil qualities were more natural and far more useful to have in power retention.  President Assad of Syria is an example of a leader that has managed to hang on to power by adopting forces of evil and oppressive tyranny against his people.  There are numerous other examples of such dictators that adopt this philosophy.  Hence, this still applies in a modern world and examples of this leadership style can be seen today.  I personally see this style as anti-democratic and ultimately leading to a state of anarchy that ultimately causes the people to revolt and attempt to reclaim freedom, liberty and equality of power for the people.  The case of the tyrannical rule of President Gaddafi who held on to power for 42 years before the entire nation rose up against him.

“… a prince must not care about the infamy of cruelty in order to keep his subjects united and faithful; because with very few examples he will be more merciful than those who because of too much mercy, allow disorders to go on, from which spring killings or depredations: because these normally offend a whole collectivity, whilst those executions which come from the prince offend an individual.”

This might be argued as a modern day argument to the consequences of Iraq.  The infamy and cruelty of the late President Sadaam Hussein. Despite his tyrannical rule he managed to keep the bulk of his subjects loyal through a strong military dictatorship. President Tito of the former Yugoslavia also ruled with an iron fist.  Subsequent intervention by Western Powers made the situation worse and more disorder and killing continued.  The concept of wide disorder reflects adversely from the viewpoint of many nations (as reported by the media); whereas single acts of atrocity by a ruler tend only to offend individuals. I would not support this argument but it is certainly a viewpoint with some merit.

[1]Quotations are from Machiavelli – ‘The Prince’

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