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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Elizalde

The Prince by Machiavelli

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

(1) Machiavelli offers us this description of a wise prince: "...a wise prince ought to adopt such a course that his citizens will always in every sort and kind of circumstances have need of the state and of him, and then he will always find them faithful." In other words, making others dependent upon you will also make them faithful unto you. Is this always the case?

(2) Machiavelli writes: "Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with." So now you decide, is it better for a prince to be feared or loved? [Just for kicks, also consider this quote from Michael Scott on the television show The Office: "Would I rather be feared or loved? Umm.. easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me?" What do you think of Michael's spin on Machiavelli?

(3) Machiavelli describes the good prince as keeping up the appearance of virtue while being willing to act contrary to virtue in secret for the sake of maintaining command of his people. Machiavelli explains: "...a prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed, being often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to fidelity, friendship, humanities, and religion. Therefore it is necessary for him to have a mind ready to turn itself accordingly as the winds and variations of fortune force it, yet, as I have said above, not to diverge from the good if he can avoid doing so, but, if compelled, then to know how to set about it. For this reason a prince ought to take care... that he appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this quality... Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are..." Under what circumstance might it be necessary for a prince to be secretly merciless, unfaithful, inhumane, dishonorable and irreligious?

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