Swift vs. Machiavelli: Government Brandi Barnes We’ve all heard of governments over the years—anarchy, dictatorship, communism—who ruled with a firm hand and a blind eye. To be frank, some were just ruthless. But how do they lead? Strong? Weak? Or a little of both? Machiavelli’s purpose: how to rule in a manner that shows power and how to instill that power over the people swiftly. Swift’s purpose: recognize the kind of cold, calculating inhumanity of blunt rationalism when used to address social problems such as poverty as well as overpopulation.
In “The Morals of the Prince,” he is somewhat encouraging the rulers to be harsh, but also be generous to show that he can give and take away because he has the authority. On the contrary, “A Modest Proposal” is stating that the coldness of turning a blind eye to the situation is one of inhumanity. To begin with, both prove their cases very differently, affecting their audience in the most profound ways. Yet, there is one more effective than the other—Swift.
Through the entire satirical piece, Swift is mocking the heartless attitude towards the poor. The wealth of a country is based on one thing: the poverty of the majority of its citizens. The English government was well aware of the two situations pointed out in this essay, yet they chose to sit there and do nothing about it. Instead, they withdraw their natural rights and dehumanize them by viewing them as a commodity.
Swift’s comment– “That it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children”—is one of the ways he shows the government taking away a natural right each mother has, but then goes on to say, “I doubt more to avoid the expense than the shame” to show how the government yet again is well aware of the dire situation, but they instead supported it by paying her to get rid of her child. Shifting into a new perspective, Machiavelli’s view towards the government is somewhat a paradoxical one.
With each statement he makes, he presents is well; then contradicts. “He may make examples of very few, but he will be more merciful in reality than those who, in their tenderheartedness, allow disorders to occur,” this shows Machiavelli’s perspective on the government; saying that the one showing the consequences to the people know what happen if they disobeyed him instills that bit of fear, and that he will be more successful than a leader who is never stern and allows the people to walk all over him.
By showing this certain authority, it ties back into his main purpose of establishing and maintaining power throughout their reign. To wrap things together, both Machiavelli and Swift are using a serious tone to present the same underlying topic: the government ruling. One is mocking it by showing how they pay money to have these children and help their families and the other is saying rule in a harsh but generous manner.
In a plethora of ways, “A Modest Proposal” is exemplification to Machiavelli’s views on how to be an effective leader, but also contradicts on saying that some those exact views listed in “The Morals of a Prince” is inhuman and heartless. Swift directs his focal point to just that of poverty and overpopulation, allowing us to see a broader reasoning behind his mocking tone towards the government as opposed to Machiavelli using an array of examples. Through both readings, they present and utilize their sole purposes for writing them. Despite their contradictions, they are still very similar to one another.
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