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Reading Machiavelli$
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John P. McCormick

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691183503

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691183503.001.0001

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“Keep the Public Rich and the Citizens Poor”

“Keep the Public Rich and the Citizens Poor”

Economic Inequality and Political Corruption in the Discourses

(p.45) 2 “Keep the Public Rich and the Citizens Poor”
Reading Machiavelli

John P. McCormick

Princeton University Press

This chapter indicates how, when one realizes that Machiavelli presents the Gracchi's career in the Discourses in such a way that he may be read as both endorsing and criticizing the ill-fated Roman tribunes' redistributive agenda, the reader is compelled to doggedly pursue what Machiavelli actually means when he repeatedly declares that republics must keep the public rich but the citizens poor. At the end of this interpretive expedition, one discovers a radical answer to perhaps the most controversial question within the Roman-Florentine republican tradition: political liberty requires genuine economic equality. The chapter then asserts that the people of republics ought to relate to each other as free and equal citizens—not only politically equal but socioeconomically as well.

Keywords:   Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses, republics, public, citizens, Roman-Florentine republic, political liberty, equal citizens

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