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When The Ends Justify The Means

952 words - 4 pages

When the Ends Justify the Means

It is commonly believed by both lay people and political philosophers alike that an authoritative figure is good and just so long as he or she acts in accordance with various virtues. If the actions of a ruler are tailored toward the common good of the people rather than himself, then that ruler is worthy of occupying the status of authority. By acting in accordance with social and ethical norms, the ruler is deemed worthy of respect and authority. Niccolò Machiavelli challenges our moral intuitions about moral authority in his work, the Prince, by ruthlessly defending the actions made by the state in an effort to preserve power. In particular, all ...view middle of the document...

In short, Machiavelli has a rather pessimistic view of human nature. The only way to tame human nature into a cooperative fashion is for the state to exercise fear over its citizens. Contrary to popular belief, people do not obey an authority because they respect that authority. Obeying authority because it is worthy of respect by its good deeds may seem legitimate at first glance; however, it quickly falls apart upon further reflection. Rather, people obey an authority figure out of fear of that authority—or more importantly, they fear the consequences that will stem from not obeying that authority. This statement resonates through all levels of hierarchy within the political and economic arena even today. For example, restaurant servers follow the demands of a restaurant manager in fear of losing their job; and restaurant managers will gleefully pay a state income tax out of fear of the actions that will result from not doing so.
The reverberations of Machiavelli's philosophy are more potent than ever in today's political arena. This is best noted in elections where various candidates compete to occupy an administrative office. For example, every four years, the presidential election takes place. Both candidates will stretch truths, massage facts and make unrealistic promises in an effort to gain followers and thus, seize presidential power. All of these actions are justified in an attempt to win the presidential campaign—the pinnacle of human power in the world today. In an effort to achieve power, there is a fine distinction between being asked to do everything necessary within one's power to achieve this goal, versus doing everything moral to achieve this goal. These actions are justified by the hopes of gaining presidential power. In general, most politicians will do everything necessary to preserve their own power, even at the expense of purporting outright lies about their...

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