Machiavelli and the Law

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Niccolo Machiavelli  was born in Florence, Italy on this day 550 years ago.

He was a true man of the Renaissance writing on a wide breadth of subjects–from history, diplomacy and philosophy to poetry, comedy and music.

His most famous literary contribution was The Princean unscrupulous guidebook for those seeking to obtain and sustain political power.

Below are some of Machiavelli’s thoughts on the law and its role in establishing a government and placating a populace.

The main foundation of every state, new states as well as ancient or composite ones, are good laws and good arms–you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow.

When judging laws we should consider the results that have been achieved through them rather than the means by which they have been executed.

Just as good morals, if they are to be maintained, have need of the laws, so the laws, if they are to be observed, have need of good morals.

It makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain.  And when neither their property nor honor is touched, the majority of men live content.

It is necessary to whoever arranges to found a Republic and establish laws in it, to presuppose that all men are bad and that they will use their malignity of mind every time they have the opportunity.

You must know, then, that there are two methods of fighting, the one by law, the other by force: the first method is that of men, the second of beasts; but as the first method is often insufficient, one must have recourse to the second.  It is therefore necessary to know well how to use both the beast and the man.

 

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