2. The nature of those driving forces, which determines the
extent to which they influence players and explain behaviors
(these influences can affect players’ actions as strongly as
cause-effect relationships, or can trigger certain behaviors in
ways that can only be estimated but not determined);
3. Plots, which are the stories that connect the present to the
end state and illustrate what would have to happen for a specific future to come into existence;
4. End states, which are descriptions of what would happen
in a particular future at some specific point in time.
Like the prince who continuously surveys the military
landscape, businesses that aspire to prosper in dynamic environments must devote time to planning and preparation:
It is clear that when princes have thought more
criticism of machiavelli
about the refinements of life than about war,
they have lost their positions.
The quickest way to lose a state is to neglect this art;
the quickest way to get one is to study it.
Leaving aside the misrepresentations of Machiavelli’s philosophy, one finds that there are passionate advocates and
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detractors—a veritable ideological antipodes—about every aspect of Machiavelli’s political thought. Yet most nonetheless
acknowledge the vitality of his writings. While the poet T. S.
Eliot once said that “no other great man has been so completely
misunderstood,” others, including the German political philosopher Leo Strauss, were harsh critics of his ideas. Anyone who is
interested in criticism of Machiavelli and Machiavelli’s thoughts
will have no problem finding suitable sources; the Norton Critical Edition of The Prince, for example, cites several of them.
The bigger question, to my mind, is why you should care.
Although it was written 500 years ago, I believe Machiavelli’s The Prince remains relevant today—particularly for
actuaries. As the profession redefines itself, actuaries will
unavoidably become more involved with concepts of business and political leadership. The current tendency to stretch
leadership principles to fit anybody’s desires and views makes
the study of canonical works such as The Prince all the more
essential to our understanding of the subject.
At the end of the day, agreeing or disagreeing with
Machiavelli is less important than being exposed to his
ideas, which continue to shape our culture and, tangentially,
CARLOS SANCHEZ-FUENTES is a fellow of the society
of actuaries, a fellow of the Conference of Consulting
actuaries, and a member of the academy. He holds a master’s
in business administration and is managing partner at
axiom actuarial Consulting llC. He can be reached at
This article is solely the opinion of its author. It does not express the official
policy of the American Academy of Actuaries; nor does it necessarily reflect
the opinions of the Academy’s individual officers, members, or staff.
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