Machiavelli's List Of Virtues Essay

1293 words - 5 pages


Question: Machiavelli lists several virtues that all rulers should have. Describe in your own words what those virtues are. Do you agree with Machiavelli? Why? (Note that it is possible that you may agree with some of his virtues but not others.)

     Through his many years of experience with Italian politics Machiavelli wrote “The Prince”; a how-to guide for new rulers. We are given descriptions of what a leader should do to effectively lead his country. A leader should be the only authority determining every aspect of the state and put in effect a policy to serve his best interests. These interests are gaining, maintaining, and expanding his political power. Machiavelli’s idea is that a ruler should use a variety of strategies (virtues) to secure his power. Machiavelli lists five virtues that a ruler should appear to have; being compassionate, trustworthy, generous, honest and religious. A ruler should possess all the qualities considered good by other people.
     A ruler should have a reputation of being generous, but not actually being generous. If you truly are generous your reputation could be damaged. A ruler who has a reputation as being generous will end up wasting all of his resources and money, causing him to tax the people to continue living plentifully. This will make the people hate him, and possibly turn against him. In the end this helps no one. “ So we see a ruler cannot seek to benefit from a reputation as a generous without harming himself” ( pg. 49) Being miserly is better than being generous. A miserly ruler may be perceived as miserly in the beginning, but he will eventually earn a reputation as being generous. A ruler who is frugal will eventually have enough money to defend himself and his people against danger, and undertake new initiatives without having to tax the people. By being miserly a ruler has greater power because he has money and with money comes great power, and with power you can dominate anything that you want, hence the phrase a person who has money is dangerous. Being mean allows a ruler to govern. This does not mean you should rob your people.
     Compassion, like generosity is also admired. But a ruler must be careful that he does not show compassion unwisely. A new ruler has to be cruel initially, because being a new ruler is full of dangers. If a ruler is too compassionate, and does not effectively punish disloyal people, they take the freedom to do what they like. A lack of cruelty will lead to disorder, chaos, murders and robberies. Some amount of cruelty is necessary to maintain order. A ruler should be both loved and feared, but this is difficult to achieve. If you must make a choice, it is much better to be feared than loved. Being feared is much safer than being loved. People are unlikely to overthrow a ruler that they fear, because they fear the punishment if they fail. “ Men are less nervous of offending someone...

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