Niccolo Machiavellis The Prince is one of the most controversial yet enduring political manifestos regarding the differing types of military affairs, principalities, and qualities of a great leader. The Prince has been referenced by academics, directors of corporations, and politicians for centuries, as it provides general, historically proven advice for principalities and republics on how to govern and maintain relations with their most important resource and the essential core of their power, i.e., individual citizens.

This paper is an ethical analysis of The Prince using the tobacco companies as an example. In Part I, the most critical, repulsive, and useful points of Machiavellis The Prince will be analyzed and discussed. Part II examines the Machiavellian techniques the tobacco companies have employed in their business and reviews the effectiveness of such techniques. In Part III, the stakeholders the tobacco companies chose to placate or satisfy are discussed as well as the decision made by the tobacco companies to alienate one or more groups.


One of the most significant elements of Machiavellis The Prince is his conception of the relationship between individual citizens and a political leader. According to Machiavelli, “it is essential for a prince to possess the good will and affections of his people, otherwise he will be utterly without support in times of adversity.” (Chapter 9). Clearly Machiavelli believed that the implications of earning the hatred and ill will of citizens were far too dire for the political future of both the prince and the state. Additionally, of the two sources of attack that a prince must fear the most, one is conspiracy from within inspired by the hatred of the people. (Chapter 19). Likewise, the prince must be aware that the conduct of his intermediaries may and will directly reflect upon his own character. Specifically, if the princes army is brutish and cruel towards the citizens, the people will turn their resentment upon the prince, who is seen to tacitly condone the actions of his military.

While Machiavelli noted that it was essential for a prince to win the support of his citizens, he clearly did not intend for the prince to be benevolent and indulgent to the people.

According to Machiavelli, “it is much more safe to be feared than loved, when you have to choose between the two.” (Chapter 17). It was Machiavellis belief that showing an excess of clemency towards individuals when they disobeyed legal, political, and societal norms would result in widespread crime, harming the entire society. Therefore, instilling cruel and severe punishment to those citizens who deserved it would secure the princes empowerment, for none of his subjects would dare attempt to remove it from him. (Chapter 17). It is important to note that Machiavelli drew a clear distinction between being feared and hated, as illustrated by this quote: “A prince must make himself feared in such a manner that he shall at least not incur their hatred, for being the feared, and not hated, can go very well together.” (Chapter 17).

Another crucial element in Machiavellis vision of the ideal ruler involved the concept of general good governance, i.e., on how to rule. Machiavelli stressed that a great prince is one who is neither inaccessible nor invisible, yet his justice is obvious to those who are governed. According to Machiavelli, “the prince will avail himself of the occasion to secure himself, with less consideration for the people by punishing the guilty, watching the suspected, and strengthening himself at all the weak points of the province.” (Chapter 3). In maintaining order in heterogeneous societies where more than one language is spoken and more than one religion is practiced, Machiavelli stated that the prince should “go and reside there which will make his possession there more secure and durable.” (Chapter 3). Machiavelli believed that living among the citizens would enable a leader to foresee any problems and resolve them before they escalate into severe crisis or tension.

In terms of individual beliefs, Machiavelli suggested that a prince should not be overly liberal because it requires heavy taxation of the citizens to maintain the reputation of being liberal. Citizens will slowly come to disfavor and dislike the prince once they realize that in order to promote an egalitarian or liberal society, higher taxes must continually be imposed. However, if a prince is fiscally conservative, he will.

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