Books I've read

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Date read: 2023-12-06. How strongly I recommend it: 8/10

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Basic understanding of human nature. Provides a foundational framework through which to view things like politics, business, and life.

My Notes

#book #history #politic #business

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a gift and sort of manual to monarchy for Lorenzo de Medici (Father of Catherine de' Medici), who had recently seized control of Florence.

Machiavelli, a father of modern political science, emphasized realism over idealism, contrasting with Plato's Republic (The philosopher king).

Politics have no relation to morals.

If you always want to play the good man in a world where most people are not good, you’ll end up badly.

To understand the nature of the people it needs to be a prince, and to understand that of princes it needs to be of the people.

In an unstable situation, people desire change because they seek to improve their lives. However, when expectations are high, it becomes challenging for new rulers to meet those demands.

If you can't reach the goal directly, aim higher; Like an archer.

Focus on a strong foundation: It's difficult to have everything in place from the start, but once you do, all subsequent tasks become easier. (Related: Do things that don't scale)

Small problems, while difficult to detect initially, will eventually grow and become much harder to solve.

Position yourself close to where problems might occur, such as in a newly acquired state. (Related: French Revolution, Elon Musk's Twitter Acquisition)

The Romans were brought into Greece by the Aetolians; and in every other country where they obtained a footing they were brought in by the inhabitants.

There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.

Valor and Prudent. Lion and Fox.

A ruler has to be able to act the beast, he should take on the traits of the fox and the lion; the lion can’t defend itself against snares and the fox can’t defend itself from wolves. So you have to play the fox to see the snares and the lion to scare off the wolves.

Don't rely too much on external factors, example: Cesare Borgia and his father (Pope Alexander VI).

Before all else, be armed.

Good laws follow good armed forces.

Be aware of the intrinsic motivation of the person you are working with. (E.g. Auxiliaries and mercenary armies)

Auxiliaries armies: if they lose, you lose too, and if they win, you are at their mercy.

Have your own armed forces. Truly independent state is one capable of protecting itself against others.

Focus on what you can control: It’s much safer to be feared than loved, but not hated.

A ruler must get others (e.g. parliament) to carry out policies that will provoke protest, keeping those that inspire gratitude to himself. In conclusion, a ruler should respect the nobles but must make sure he is not hated by the people.

A sensible leader must practice the art of war and never relax in peacetime but work hard to make the most of it and turn it to his advantage in the tough times ahead. That way, when his luck does turn, he’ll be ready.

Always make a "positional move" towards your goals.

Never reveal your next moves: You have to know how to disguise your slyness, how to pretend one thing and cover up another.

Avoid actions that could lead to disgrace and the loss of your position, even if those actions are morally right.

Don't keep promise if it make you positionally bad.

A conspirator can’t act alone and can look for accomplices only among people he believes are unhappy with the situation. But as soon as he reveals his intentions to someone else he’s giving that person the chance to improve his position, since obviously there are all kinds of advantages to be had from betraying a conspiracy.

Find the person who can tell you the truth.

A ruler isn’t smart because he’s getting proper advice; on the contrary, it’s his good sense that makes the right advice possible.

Fortune varies but men go on regardless. When their approach suits the times and circumstances they’re successful, and when it doesn’t they’re not.

A ruler must show that he admires achievement in others, giving work to men of ability and rewarding people who excel in this or that craft.

Walking away from fear will only make the fear bigger.

When you disarm the people, you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence, and both of these opinions generate hatred.

How to wins a respect: great military victories (works and achievements) and a display of remarkable personal qualities.

A ruler will be respected when he is a genuine friend and a genuine enemy, that is, when he declares himself unambiguously for one side and against the other.

Not taking a side indicates weakness, fear, and indecisiveness.

A winner doesn’t want half-hearted friends who don’t help him in a crisis; and the loser will have nothing to do with you since you didn’t choose to fight alongside him and share his fate.

If you declare yourself courageously for one side or the other and your ally wins, he’ll be indebted to you and there’ll be a bond of friendship between you. But if your ally loses, you’re still his friend and he’ll offer what help he can: you become companions in misfortune, and your luck could always turn.

The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.