machiavelli's on cruelty and clemency
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“On Cruelty and Clemency,” presents a thoroughly pessimistic view of humanity. Men are inherently “rotten,” Machiavelli argues, explaining that they are “ungrateful, fickle, liars and deceivers, fearful of danger and greedy for gain.” For this reason, it is safer for a prince to be feared than to be loved: “love is link of obligation which men, because they are rotten, will break any time they think doing so serves their advantage.” Fear, on the other hand, “involves dread of punishment, from which they can never escape.” As always, Machiavelli tempers what seems at first like a thoroughly cynical position, noting that moderation is the key, and that a prince should try to make himself feared in a way that does not make him hated. More specifically, he should only shed blood when he has good reason to, he should not confiscate property, and he should keep his hands off his subjects’ women. Certain lines cannot be crossed.