What are the qualities of the ideal prince according to Machiavelli?  

The qualities of the ideal prince according to Machiavelli include ruthlessness when necessary, the ability to inspire respect, military expertise, and a willingness to set virtue aside.

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For the prince to maintain power, it is important that he act ruthlessly if necessary. Contrary to popular belief, Machiavelli is not endorsing blood-soaked tyranny. He's simply saying that, under certain circumstances, a prince needs to do whatever it takes to remain in control—not just for his own good but...

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For the prince to maintain power, it is important that he act ruthlessly if necessary. Contrary to popular belief, Machiavelli is not endorsing blood-soaked tyranny. He's simply saying that, under certain circumstances, a prince needs to do whatever it takes to remain in control—not just for his own good but for the good of his realm.

Among other things, this means that a prince cannot draw upon the values of Christian morality in discharging his responsibilities as ruler. Machiavelli certainly thinks that there's a place for Christianity, but not when it comes to statecraft.

What has made Machiavelli so controversial down the centuries is his steadfast refusal to pay lip-service to religious teachings in formulating his political ideas. As far as he's concerned, the business of getting and maintaining power is a purely secular matter, whether it concerns the power of princes or prelates. In practical terms, this means that it will often be necessary to resort to cruel and underhand methods of governance, the kind that couldn't be justified on purely religious grounds.

As well as being ruthless where necessary, a prince must inspire loyalty among his people. Being ruthless is not enough; the prince must carry his people with him if he's to remain on his throne. That's why Machiavelli considers it such a huge mistake for rulers to rely on mercenaries for defending the realm. They owe their loyalty purely to money and not to the prince or his people.

If the prince can inspire loyalty among his people, then they will willingly rally to his cause and fight for him. And if that happens, then the prince won't need to rely on mercenaries.

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In Machiavelli's The Princethe ideal leader is neither loved nor hated, but respected.  He cannot be too generous, because that increases people's expectations of him and it is impossible to keep buying the people's love; the price gets too high.  Yet, the prince should not be hated due to his violent nature, because that encourages revolt.  The prince should act in ways that keep him in power and maintain his own power.  He should be able to read the character and motives of others in order to use them for his own ends.  A good prince is able to secure wise counsel who can advise him on things that he does not know.  Of course, these councilors must be entirely faithful to the prince and should be replaced when they seek to overstep their authority.  The prince should also be his own military expert; it is only through arms and preserving the kingdom that the people's trust and respect can be earned.  

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The ideal prince makes it his priority to maintain power. To do so requires him to put realpolitik—the pragmatic aspects of ruling—ahead of moral considerations. 

The ideal prince, therefore, puts an emphasis on appearing virtuous rather than actually being virtuous. An effective prince who wants to stay in power must be willing to put virtue (traits such as generosity, loyalty, honesty, and mercy) aside when necessary in order to instill fear in both his enemies and his followers, as fear generates respect. He works to keep the common people on his side by taking care of their needs and appearing strong and resolute, but must be careful as well not to be too generous. Otherwise, the state might not stay financially solvent, and, for the wise ruler, it is imperative the state never suffers from insolvency.

The ideal prince is a risk-taker who puts a premium on military action, as the people respect a warrior. He thinks for himself rather than relying on the judgment of others, knows how to read character, and does not surround himself with flatterers. He lives in reality, not fantasy. He works hard, utilizes his own mind, and makes survival his guide.

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According to Machiavelli, the ideal prince should be ruthless and willing to eschew conventional morality to maintain his power. In fact, they should not allow themselves to be govern according to any principle other than the willingness to do what is necessary to deal with whatever issues that fortune throws in his path.  He should be willing to be dishonest, telling people what they want to hear, but it is equally important that he be shrewd enough to make people believe that he is honest:

It is not essential, then, that a Prince should have all the good qualities [of leadership], but it is most essential that he should seem to have them; I will even venture to affirm that if he has and invariably practises them all, they are hurtful, whereas the appearance of having them is useful. 

Similarly, he should be frugal while appearing to be generous, and even though he should be ruthless, he should also appear to be just. Indeed, in Machiavelli's politics, appearances are everything, as is flexibility. The prince's virtue lay not in his obedience to some abstract moral code, but rather in his willingness to do whatever the situation called for. Machiavelli's hard-headed realism is summarized by the following quote:

[I]t seems to me better to follow the real truth of things than an imaginary view of them. For many Republics and Princedoms have been imagined that were never seen or known to exist in reality.

A leader, he claimed, must be like the lion and the fox, in other words, both mighty and forceful, but also sly and duplicitous when the need arose.

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