Archive for May 14th, 2013|Daily archive page


In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Self-Help on May 14, 2013 at 12:00 am

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

–Ecclesiastes 9:11

It is one thing to gain executive power, and another to hold onto it.  It is altogether different to use it wisely and justly.

Many are the dictators who have ruled long, but not justly–such as Porfiro Diaz, whose 30-year regime was ended by the Mexican Revolution in 1911.

And many are those who wanted to rule justly but could not face up to the harsh realities of power.  One of these was Francisco Madero, who democratically succeeded Diaz–but was soon betrayed and executed by Victoriana Huerta, one of his own generals.

In Part One, I outlined a number of timeless suggestions by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman and patriot (1469-1527) for attaining and wisely employing executive power.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Many of this nation’s corporate executives and officials manning local, state and Federal agencies (including the Presidency) would do well to pay close attention to his advisories.  Among these:

  • EVALUATING A SUBORDINATE: For a prince to be able to know a minister there is this method which never fails.  When you see the minister think more of himself than of you, and in all his actions seek his own profit, such a man will never be a good minister, and you can never rely on him.  For whoever has in hand the state of another man must never think of himself but of the prince, and not mind anything but what relates to him.
  • TREATMENT OF SUBORDINATES: And on the other hand, the prince, in order to retain his fidelity, ought to think of his minister, honoring and enriching him, doing him kindnesses and conferring on him favors and responsible tasks, so that the great favors and riches bestowed on him cause him not to desire other honors and riches, and the offices he holds make him fearful of changes.  When princes and their ministers stand in this relation to each other, they can rely the one upon the other; when it is otherwise, the result is always injurious either for one or the other of them.
  • TAKING COUNSEL: There is no way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth.  But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.
  • A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • MAKING DECISIONS: But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.  Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.
  • SEEK THE TRUTH:  A prince, therefore, ought always to take counsel, but only when he wishes, not when others wish.  On the contrary, he ought to discourage absolutely attempts to advise him unless he asks it.  But he ought to be a great asker, and a patient hearer of the truth about those things of which he has inquired.  Indeed, if he finds that anyone has scruples in telling him the truth he should be angry.
  • UNWISE PRINCES CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED: And since some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent is so considered, not by his nature but by the good counselors he has about him, they are undoubtedly deceived.  It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.
  • FORTUNE: I think it may be true that fortune is the ruler of half our actions, but that she allows the other half or thereabouts to be governed by us.
  • I would compare her to an impetuous river that, when turbulent, inundates the plains, casts down trees and buildings, removes earth from this side and places it on the other; every one flees before it, and everything yields to its fury without being able to oppose it.
  • Still, when it is quiet, men can make provisions against it by dykes and banks, so that when it follows it will either go into a canal or its rush will not be so wild and dangerous.
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