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Etica Moderno ed Il Principe – Modern ethics and the prince

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  1. Introduction
  2. Machiavelli advise to the government
  3. Modern public policy
  4. Consideration and decision making
  5. The evils (Malvagita)
  6. Autonomy and nonmaleficence
  7. The lesser of the two
  8. Conclusion

Practices that are deceitful and cunning, in the interests of retaining power, have been dubbed ?Machiavellian?, no doubt for Machiavelli's political treatise The Prince. To many, this short book is a canon of all things unethical; to be called ?Machiavellian? is generally not favorable. Machiavelli cites numerous practices that should be done in order for a prince to keep power in his principality. Many of these methods, such as not honoring your word if it puts you at a disadvantage (Chapter 18), are against all modern philosophical and legal practices. However, in this myriad of modern don'ts lie bits of sound advice for leaders of old and new. And while the book largely concerns itself with warfare (even advising to do so in peacetime), at least one maxim has practical application to a modern public policy issue, abortion.
Parole di Machiavelli ? The Words of Machiavelli

In Chapter 21, Machiavelli advises government to be mindful of all the decisions that they make: Then no government should ever imagine that it can adopt a safe course of action; rather, it should regard all possible course of action as risky. This is the way things are: whenever one tried to escape one danger one runs into another. Prudence consists in being able to assess the nature of a particular threat and in accepting the lesser evil. The chapter, on the whole, concerns it self with ways that a prince shall gain honor, both by achieving great feats and also by being a true friend or a true enemy to another principality. Machiavelli cautions the ruler to be careful of forming alliance with anyone more powerful than he because upon victory, he shall become indebted to the other power.

[...] The intact D&E procedure has been shown to be significantly safer than D&E and the court refused to acknowledge this matter. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg expresses alarm at the idea that the court supports a procedure that could be harmful to a woman's health while dismissing the safer alternative. In certain situations, where a woman's only method of survival may be by intact the woman may not be able to receive the procedure and die. In that instance, the State would be directly responsible for the death of a woman. [...]


[...] Abortion is such an incredibly complex topic that has morality, health issues and biomedical ethics interwoven into all of its arguments, that some might find little room for the 16th century treatise's advice. The aforementioned advice is a more general statement about how a prince should never commit to any actions without assessing its risk first and can be appropriately applied to this issue. Ideally, all people should do this type of risk analysis when making consequential decisions, but the need for prudence is even greater when involving matters of public policy. [...]


[...] Congress' finding that the procedure is never medically needed is based on testimony from licensed physicians, none of whom have performed the procedure themselves; some did not offer abortion services and was not even an ob/gyn. Gonzales S. Ct. at 1643. An amicus brief filed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), among others, in support of the respondents states that the procedure is medically advantageous in certain situations: safety advantages of intact D&E include fewer insertions of instruments into the uterus, reduced risk of perforation, reduced likelihood of retained fetal tissue, reduced blood loss, and shorter time of anesthesia exposure. [...]

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