Machiavellis Views of Human Nature and Their Relevance to Todays World



Born in Florence, Italy in 1469, Niccolò Machiavelli was the first great political philosopher of the Renaissance. Once a bureaucrat and diplomat for the state of Florence, he was removed from office when the Medici family was restored to power in 1512. He retired to his country home where he, among other works, penned The Prince, a work which has become a political handbook for modern day politicians as well as for those who desire power--whether it be on Wall Street, through corporate conglomerates, or in their personal relationships.
The Prince is a philosophical political view on how one might gain, maintain, and expand the power over the state or states in which a ruler has authority. While Machiavelli’s views are based on maintaining a monarchy, they can be equated to the corporate world of modern times. In this essay, I will discuss how Machiavelli’s views of human nature are relevant in the world today, particularly in capitalist economies that produce massive conglomerates.
First let’s review some of Machiavelli’s viewpoints. Machiavelli suggests that after overthrowing the current monarchy the new ruling Prince should be the sole authority, making all decisions in his own best interests.1 Any members of the old regime should be annihilated, thus preventing them from regaining power.2 The Prince should be distrustful of the citizens over whom he rules, as they will turn against him when times are bad.3 He should, however, not mistreat them, for even though men are generally ungrateful, liars, and deceivers, they will remain loyal if treated well. This is particularly true to those who are in the best positions to oppose the Prince. If you allow them to believe you are interested in their advice, providing you ask them for their opinions on matters that concern you, they’ll feel flattered and inclined to please.4
Machiavelli believed in a separation from the church. The church believed in ruling in a humanitarian manner, whereas, Machiavelli felt a secular form of a government would best serve the Prince, rather than that of the well being of the citizens.5 He felt that it is better for a Prince to render severe punishments rather than to be merciful because a death sentence only affects a few, yet it deters crimes which affect many. Machiavelli theorized that it is beneficial for a Prince to be loved by his citizens, but if having to choose between being loved and being feared, it is better to be feared.6 He should avoid being hated which can happen by confiscating the property of his subjects and thereby make him vulnerable to rebellion.7 People tend to get over the death of a family member quicker than the loss of their property.8 Appearing to be stingy would be more advantageous than being generous, less he be taken advantage of.9 He should be deceitful to his subjects in his own best interests although this should not be evident. The Prince must always display the virtues of mercy, honesty, humanity, righteousness, and religiousness while actually constantly manipulating his subjects.10
Today in this world of downsizing and corporate mergers, a large corporation would have no trouble applying the principals of Machiavelism. Corporate giants acquire smaller, competitive, and/or mismanaged companies in hostile fashion every day. Once they are taken over, the old Board of Directors and the CEO is dismissed, factories and warehouses are closed, plants are consolidated, and hundreds of employees are fired. Some of the upper management may be retained so that the old policies of the company can continue as they were, providing this serves the main interests of the corporation. This maneuver puts the remaining workers in a state of unrest, making them fearful of losing their jobs. They become insecure and unsettled about their future and try to perform more effectively at their jobs. The new management also resorts to dishonesty and may use ruthless scare tactics to keep the faithful work horses from resigning from the company. It is better to retain loyal employees than to have to go through the time and expense of hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire and train new ones. Some employees may be rewarded for their hard work with insignificant title upgrades and modest increases in wages, thereby keeping