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The Use Of Immorality In Order To Achieve Popular Rule

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Throughout The Prince and The Discourses of Livy, Niccolo Machiavelli demonstrates multiple theories and advocacies as to why popular rule is important to the success of a state. Popular rule is a term that will be used to define an indirect way to govern the people of a state. In order to rule the masses, a leader must please the people or revolts will occur, causing mayhem and a lack of stability in one’s state. During both written works, Machiavelli stresses the importance of obedience and order needed for a state, and especially for a leader to be successful. Machiavelli thoroughly states that anything and everything must be done to keep the peace of the masses, even if acts of immorality are used. However, instead of advocating immorality, Machiavelli is saying that to serve the people and the state well, a ruler must not restrict himself to conventional standards of morality. His use of immoral tactics in leadership would appear to be unpopular; however the acts of immorality have limitations and are done solely to avoid displeasing the masses or creating disorder. Therefore it is acceptable to practice immorality if it is done only to a small number of constituents, if it is not repeated, and if it is performed to please and benefit the public. It is these limitations that prove Machiavelli is arguing that the use of immoral tactics, to rule the people and in turn be ruled by the people, is needed. He suggests that if the majority of the population is unhappy with a leader, that particular leader’s rule would be in jeopardy, thus falling victim to popular rule.

The first justification for the use of immorality is that it is only practiced upon a small number of residents. Machiavelli summarizes that it is better for a ruler to be immoral to a few of his subjects and prevent disorder from spreading because disorder will damage the community as a whole more than it will damage a few individuals in isolated acts of immorality. The priority of the leader is to maintain order and act to prevent disorder because, “the whole community suffers if there are riots, while to maintain order the ruler only has to execute one or two individuals” (51). Citizens of a community would much rather live in a peaceful and orderly world which exemplifies how a ruler is actually a slave to the people. It is in the ruler’s best interest to keep the peace and please the citizens in order to stay in power because if the ruler does not do his job of protecting his citizens then he is not promoting an image of popular rule and thus will be overthrown as a result of the tyranny in his state. In the bigger picture, it is more moral to prevent disorder to a community and keep it obedient and prosperous than to let it fall to disorder and tyranny. Therefore, the acts of immorality that a ruler does to accomplish this are justifiable means to the more important end of securing power to maintain order.

Machiavelli is a supporter of popular rule, though in an indirect way. Rulers must please their constituents but not give them power. For if the people feel they have power they will rebel against their leader and cause chaos in the state. On page 96 Machiavelli states, “it is the populace who are responsible for innumerable conflicts and clashes in a republic.” Because it is difficult to satisfy the majority without upsetting the minority, people become enraged and protest, causing what the government would consider to be conflicts. That is why it is so important to create a strong government that revolves around a magistrate or council, for people fear being publicly accused of faults, let alone as a threat to public liberty. Machiavelli states that there is no authority more “useful and necessary” for leaders of a government to employ upon their citizens. “[Citizens] for fear of being accused, dare not attempt to do anything that might harm the state, and if they do try to do anything they are immediately and impartially crushed” (102). These examples illustrate vividly Machiavelli’s conjecture that “people should either be caressed or crushed” (9). Therefore, rulers should make “examples of” revolutionaries to implant fear into the populace so that the popular rule never becomes so strong that the masses have authority.

The second condition of immorality is that a ruler’s act of immorality can not be repeated. Machiavelli has made the point that immorality to serve greater priorities is justifiable and even encouraged. In this limitation, he warns about the abuse of using immorality more than necessary, more so in The Prince. This has to do with accountability. No matter how much power a ruler has, he still remains accountable to the people. Machiavelli says on page 56 that rulers should be afraid of two things: “one is other rulers and the other is their own subjects.” Another limit to a leader’s use of immorality is that it can not upset the people so much that they begin to have hate for their leader. If a ruler’s cruelty gets to this point and puts disgust in his subjects, it has tragic ends. Machiavelli goes through the fates of “bloodthirsty and rapacious” leaders like Commodus, Severus, Antoninus Caracalla, and Maximinus. Here he states, “in order to satisfy



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