Machiavelli’s ideas about power and governing can be boiled down to a handful of rules, somewhat paraphrased below and not in any particular order of importance:
- Winning matters.
- If you win, people will judge the methods you used to win as appropriate. If you lose, they will despise both you and your means.
- If you can’t be both loved and feared, choose fear. Affection is fickle, but the fear of punishment is constant.
- Crush your opponents.
- Use your power harshly only for a short time, to achieve a greater stability for the municipality.
- Learn the rules of the game so you can use them to your advantage.
- Consultants and lobbyists are working for their own interests, not yours. Where possible use your own people and staff, instead of outsiders.
- You need both cunning and strength to survive in the political wilderness. Strength alone isn’t enough.
- Only keep your promises when it is beneficial to do so. It’s okay to break them when times change, or the need to keep them has gone.
- Appear inflexible, decisive and resolute, but act as the situation and the political climate demand.
- Pick sides. The middle ground offers the worst of both sides, not the best.
- Avoid flatterers and sycophants.
- Learn how not to be good: be bad when necessity demands it.
- Knock a few heads together when you have to show the rest who’s boss.
- Be stingy, not generous.
- Place your own stamp on the municipality: erase anything that remains of the former mayor and council.
- Change with the times.
- It is better to be adventurous than cautious.
- Make sure all your advisors, your friends and staff know their benefits and their positions depend on your success.
- Guard your reputation: it is your most precious asset.
- You owe your allegiance to the people, not to the civil servants, special interest groups, lobbyists or your friends.
- Study the greats, study history, study politics, strategy and most of all, study war.
- Hire smart people.
Previous Chapter – Next Chapter
Latest posts by Ian Chadwick (see all)
- Machiavelli and Sejanus - October 14, 2022
- A Meeting of the Minds? - July 3, 2021
- Machiavelli’s Prince as satire - June 8, 2017
One thought on “Machiavelli’s Rules”
You must log in to post a comment.