Is Evil Superior to Good?

Machiavelli is of the opinion that a good person of necessity must come to grief among people who are not good and that a leader must do what is considered to be evil in order to keep his realm or organization intact. [1]  Is evil superior to good as a method of organizing society?

A look at our world shows that the use of force predominates.  Dictators imprison, torture, and kill their opponents.  Those in democracies who are in power use the political and legal system to suppress their opponents.  It is difficult to point to an example of someone in power who is truly good in his/her official actions.

Our experience tells us that good does work.  Jesus had only 12 disciples to carry on his work and while they were severely persecuted, they were not destroyed.  In fact they flourished.  Gandhi’s non-violent movement confronted the military might of Britain and succeeded in gaining independence for India.

If good does work, why do so many choose to do evil; why does Machiavelli recommend doing evil?  One answer is that it is quicker.  A robber in minutes takes what took you hours, days, or weeks to earn.  A ruler can throw dissidents in prison or execute them in order to remain in power rather than taking the time to develop a consensus among the people of his/her country.

Both evil and good will work.  Machiavelli recommends using both to remain in power.  Yes, at times one who is good will come to grief among people who are not good.  But likewise, some evil people come to grief as well.  We have a choice to make.  Will we do whatever it takes to remain in power or will we do what is right?

[1]   Luigi Ricci, trans., Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, New York:  New American Library, 1952, p. 84.

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