The Prince

I finally read The Prince, by Machiavelli. I have tried a couple times before, and found it somewhat tedious. I suspect that it’s a question of what translation you choose, since this time it was a very easy read, and made a lot of sense, and the last few times it was very very hard going.

I’ve long thought it a great injustice that the important decisions of history have been made by brute force, rather than by negotiation or reasoning. Machiavelli makes this observation early on, but then, in his practical way, dismisses it from consideration, because that’s just the way things are.

I believe I’ll probably have to read it again, at least once, to get the more practical implications of the book to today. I read most of it while I was on airplanes over the past week, and that’s not the time when I think the most clearly. There are those who insist that it’s the best available book on management. I’m pretty much convinced, having read it, that either they are speaking entirely tongue-in-cheek, or are focused on some particular chapter or other. In particular, what get mentioned is the chapter about whether it’s better (more effective in retaining power) to be loved or feared. Interestingly, the answer to this was not what I was told it was. That is, Machiavelli says that it really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re not hated.

Anyways, on the whole, a thoroughly enjoyable read, if only from a historical perspective. The examples that he gives to illustrate his points are simply fascinating.