Machiavelli vs Rosseau

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MACHIAVELLI VS. ROUSSEAU

Machiavelli and Rousseau were two great minds of European history. They both developed ideas on how to run a country. The two shared some of their views even though they were centuries apart, however, some ideas were very contradictory.

Machiavelli believed in a very strict form of government. His time, 15th century Italy, was a time of princes and control over everything. People fought wars just to gain another city and blood and guts was a common occurrence. Machiavelli knew that a prince must be strong to gain his power, and must be strong to keep it. He thought it right to do anything it took to get this power, whether it was moral or not. Perception was everything to Machiavelli. Even though a prince may be a good person, his public persona could not be the same. Honesty must be put aside at times for evil will do anything – every dirty little trick in the book – to triumph over good. Therefore, good men have no choice but to return the favor. He saw the people as incapable of ruling themselves and like Thomas Hobbes, will turn their sovereignty over to the prince.

Rousseau was a bit different. He believed in popular sovereignty and general will. He wanted general consent and decisions to be made based on majority, not the whim of a ruler. However, he did believe that the majority should be shut down if the ruler or monarch sees that a decision will be in the best interest for the people in the long run, not necessarily in the short view of things. He wanted the government to basically guard and protect the people, not baby them. He thought that civilization was spoiling the citizens of the countries and that individual freedom with warm spontaneous feeling had to be complimented with correct cold intellect.

Thus, Machiavelli believed in absolute power over a country, where examples could be made out of people to protect not only the country but also his position of power. Rousseau believed that a...
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