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Daily Journal: Means justify results in politics

John Hood writes for Carolina Journal’s Daily Journal:

North Carolina politics can be exhausting. The past few weeks have brought us wrangling over redistricting and constitutional amendments, conflicts between Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican lawmakers over disaster relief and a gas-pipeline fund, and a mob of protesters toppling the Silent Sam statue at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Other than a certain circus-like quality, what did these seemingly disparate events have in common? I think the answer is that each featured people acting, to varying degrees, as if the ends justify the means — as if the immediate consequences of an act are what matters most, not the nature of the act itself or the precedent it may set for future actors.

The idea that greatly valued ends can justify even unsavory means is often attributed to Niccolo Machiavelli in his 16th-century work The Prince. But the idea is far older. The ancient Greek playwright Sophocles famously presented it in his version of the story of Electra, who takes revenge on her mother for killing her father. In her situation “there is no place for prudence or respect,” Electra exclaims in the play, because “in evil times we are forcibly compelled to act in evil ways.”

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