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The end justifies the means

This is perhaps one of the most disputed ideas of modern times. The difference between a totalitarian government and a democratic one is mainly that the one puts complete faith in the proverb, while the other has as little to do with it as possible.

This phrase means doing anything whatsoever that is required to get the result you want, regardless of the methods used. It does not matter whether these methods are legal or illegal, fair or foul, kind or cruel, truth or lies, democratic or dictatorial, good or evil: the phrase refers to the deliberate use of wrong methods and law-breaking by the powerful to get their way or remove an opponent or whatever, and immediate and self-righteous denial if details are made known. he end result of ‘the ends justifies the means’ is anarchy and lawlessness.

Dr Brewer pointed out that his implied ‘that it doesn’t matter what steps you take to effect your purpose, or what suffering you cause to others, so long as the purpose is a good a desirable one in itself; that you may (if, indeed, such a thing is possible) “do evil that good may come”‘.

Although mostly attributed to Machiavelli, the phrase “the end justifies the means” is not one of his creation. I is first found in Ovid’ Heroides ii. 85, exitus acta probat, the outcome justifies the deeds.