Machiavellian Politics in The Prince

The Prince, written by Niccolo Machiavelli, is one of the
first examinations of politics and science from a purely scientific
and rational perspective. Machiavelli theorizes that the state is only
created if the people cooperate and work to maintain it. The state is
also one of manís greatest endeavors, and the state takes precedence
over everything else. The state should be oneís primary focus, and
maintaining the sovereignty of the state oneís most vital concern. The
state is founded on the power of its military. Therefore, a strong
military is vital to maintaining the state. Machiavelli believes that
men respect power, but they will take advantage of kindness. He
believes that when given the opportunity one must destroy completely,
because if one does not he will certainly be destroyed. The prince
should lead the military, and he has to be intelligent. An effective
politician can make quick and intelligent choices about the problems
that coneztly arise before him. He must also have virtue, which
means he is strong, confident, talented, as well as smart. A prince
cannot be uncertain, because uncertainty is a sign of weakness.
Fortune controls half of humanís actions, and manís will control the
other half. Virtue is the best defense for fortune, and virtue must be
used in order to keep fortune in check. The prince must take advantage
of situations based solely on if it is best for the state. He should
choose his decisions based on contemporary and historical examples. A
prince cannot consider whether his acts are moral or immoral, and he
instead must act in an unbiased manner for the state. Also, it does
not matter how the state achieves its goals, as long as these goals
are achieved. Finally, regardless of the personal morality involved,
the prince should be praised if he does good for the state and berated
if he hurts the state. Machiavelliís principles have widespread
influence, and they are quite similar to some of Thomas Hobbes ideas
in Leviathan.

Machiavelli has a very low opinion of the people throughout
history. In general, he feels that men are "ungrateful, fickle,
liars, and deceiver." "They shun danger and are greedy for profit;
while you treat them well, they are yours. They would shed their blood
for you Ö but when you are in danger they turn against you."
Machiavelli basically has little respect for the people, and he feels
as though they have not earned much either. He uses this as
justification for the use of fear in order to control people. He also
feels that men are "wretched creatures who would not keep their word
to you, you need not keep your word to them." This sense of fairness
justifies breaking oneís word to men. Machiavelli also writes about
how hard it must be for a prince to stay virtuous. He concludes that
with so many wretched men around virtue is hard to create in oneself.
"The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way
necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous."
Overall, Machiavelli is very pessimistic about the abilities of the
people. He feels that after examining people through history, his
conclusions of wretched men are correct.

Machiavelli tells us that the sovereign must take whatever
action is necessary to maintain order in society. In time this will
result in the most compassionate choice too. Machiavelli explains
that, Cesare Borgia, by using cruelty was able to achieve order and
obedience in Romangna. This contrast with the inaction of the
Florentines, who allowed internal conflict to develop in Pistoia,
resulting in devastation of the city. Therefore, a number of highly
visible executions can be a very effective means of controlling the
people and in preventing a major out break of violence and murder.
Machiavelli also cites the tremendous military successes of Hannibal.
Even though Hannibal led an army of different races over foreign soil,
he never had any dissension because of his reputation of extreme
cruelty. Machiavelli further concludes that it is difficult to be
loved and feared simultaneously. Hence, one should always prefer to be
feared than to be loved. During adverse times, the fear of punishment
is far more effective in maintaining control than depending peopleís
goodwill and love. Finally, excessive leniency will lead to