The Prince Chapter 15
Concerning things for which men, and princes especially, are praised or censured
Machiavelli considers how a prince should behave toward his subjects and his friends. Although many books have been written on this topic, Machiavelli sees no practical value in them because they address what ought to be and not what is. He writes:
"Many men have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good." Chapter 15, pg. 56
Since there are many possible qualities that a prince can be said to possess, he must not be overly concerned about having all the good ones. Although a bad reputation should be avoided, this is not crucial in maintaining power. The only ethic that matters is one that is beneficial to the prince in dealing with the concerns of his state.