In his famous text The Prince, Machiavelli introduces his thoughts on virtu to the political arena. Many today see Machiavelli as evil and sinister because he goes against certain Christian virtues by asserting that ruling with an iron fist is most effective. I contend that Machiavelli’s teachings are sound and legitimate, but not in the political sense. Rather, I would argue the ideals taught in The Prince are more effective from a business standpoint.
One of the key principles of the foundation of Machiavelli’s teachings is that the realm of politics needs to be in its own scene, its own arena. Throughout his teachings, Machiavelli does his best to separate political ideology and religion. He also comes to the understanding that politics is not ruled from above, but that the ultimate power of politics comes from men. In Machiavelli’s time, people were becoming entrenched with moral goodness while leaving behind ambition. Essentially, Machiavelli’s The Prince cries out for a separation of church and state. It is upon this foundation that Machiavelli establishes his arguments.
In this same context, we can assert that those who believe in free market ideology would agree with Machiavelli by comparing those desiring religious intervention to those who desire government regulation. Just as Machiavelli saw how religion could put restrictions on political gain, there are many that feel that government regulation of the economy also provides too many constraints. In the free market, power is earned by those who choose to put in the effort to acquire it, not those who are simply blessed or to whom power is given. During certain times of economic downturn or disappointment, there are always those who want to the government to step in, regulate and appropriate wherever they see fit. Machiavelli would throw a fit if the state religion stepped in and declared that God would decide who would govern in certain lands. He would also be furious if government decided to intervene on economic destiny by constricting the ability of men exercise free will and attain their own power.
To further solidify his argument, Machiavelli redefines what is good in a political nature. Instead of basing his argument on commonly held notions of what is good, he equates political good with success. Such success is derived from power. With this equation, Machiavelli is able to form his definition of virtu. Virtu goes against what is taught by Christian virtue, that we should be charitable and merciful. Virtu is classified by doing whatever is necessary in any situation to gain power, which in the end is political good.
This same equation for success is also applicable to business. There has never been a Fortune 500 company that has thrived on being passive and merciful to their competition. Rather, those that are successful follow Machiavelli’s rules in doing whatever is necessary to gain power and remain in power. While there is hardly anyone in the realm of business that will openly admit to being heartless, it is common knowledge that you should never let your emotions get in the way of a difficult business decision. It is clear that Machiavelli follows this same mantra. The compassion in his statement on controlling cities that lived under different laws suggests that the new rulers should, in reference to previous rulers, “lay them waste.”
Speaking of this principle as a whole, it is clear that businessmen apply Machiavelli’s advice in the acquisition of new companies. In chapter five of The Prince, Machiavelli gives three options of what one might do in order to appease the people living in a newly acquired territory: kill the royals who reigned previously, live amongst the conquered people, or colonize in the new territories. It is also interesting to note that Machiavelli explores the fact that when those who live in a monarchy have their royal family brutally...