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The Prince

The Prince


by Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince Chapter 18 Summary

A ruler and his promises

  • We would all love to be perfect and be honest, but, hey, you have to break some eggs if you're going to make an omelet. Dear Shmooponauts: if you want to rule, you're going to have to lie. A lot. Maybe all the time.
  • Machiavelli gives us some metaphors about law versus force, and our animal side versus our human side. Basically the idea is this: don't be afraid to go a little wild. You're going to have to be a bit tricky and a bit scary, and that's okay.
  • We think Machiavelli would have liked the phrase "there's a sucker born every minute" because he thinks that most people are just sitting around, waiting to be lied to. He even gives an example of a lying pope: Alexander VI. Here's a guy whose job is to be religious and moral, but how does he succeed in life? By lying! Ta-da.
  • So, Machiavelli gives us the go-ahead to do the nasty stuff. But here's the thing: we have to seem to be innocent. And we need to know when we have to change our tactics.
  • Anyway, as long as you keep your kingdom prosperous and safe, people will say that you were a good guy—even if you say one thing and do another, like the king of Spain.

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