Prince Summary

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Niccolo Machiavelli: The Qualities of a Prince
Niccolo Machiavelli wrote “The Qualities of a Prince” in Florence, Italy in 1513 as an instruction book for how to be a leader of a nation and maintain political power. He focuses on the necessary traits a ruler needs to possess and the actions they must take in order to maintain their power and be an effective leader. His approach advocates a balanced, nuanced approach to ruling. Machiavelli believes that the appearance of the leader’s character and the impression they give their people is more important than the reality of the leader’s character.

Machiavelli begins by stressing the importance of military service and knowledge of warfare. Military service provides the leader with the appearance of authority, as well as knowledge of the land they are to lead. Machiavelli considers military service to be the only profession a leader should have. All other professions would be below the status of the leader, and would diminish their appearance.

Machiavelli believes that it is a mistake to be too generous. Rather than take the action of being too giving to his people, Machiavelli recommends that the leader conserve their own resources, so as to not necessitate requesting resources from the people. In his opinion, if a leader earns favor by being generous with his people, that leader will eventually run out of resources to be generous with. They will then need to levy taxes on the very people they are being generous with in order to have the resources to continue to appear generous. Machiavelli encourages a balance between being generous and stingy, while not being concerned too much with being labeled stingy. Even when discussing love and fear, Machiavelli advocates finding a balance, and maintaining appearances. He acknowledges that, especially for new rulers, it is important to inspire fear in those who would consider challenging your rule. He says that a balance must be found between being loved by...
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