Sunday, 16 March 2008

Machiavelli vs. Ghandi

Machiavellians believe that “The aim justifies the means” While Gandhi maintained that “The end is not important, only the means are important.” Do you agree with either of the statements? Why yes or why not?What about your neighborhood? Do many people believe in it or is there a resistance against such attitude?In your opinion, does the attitude differ among nations?

The film A Few Good Men ends with a powerful final courtroom scene where Gen. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson) is on the witness stand and being interrogated by Lt. Dan Kaffee (Tom
Cruise) over the death of Santiago (a US Marine) in suspicious circumstances. Jessep spits
the following line as part of a monologue "You have the luxury of not knowing what I know:
That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives" (Sorkin, 1991). I am a firm
believer that the aim justifies the means especially when difficult decisions are made that
affect the lives of others. Few people could argue that the Allied forces were not justified
in sending so many of their young men to their deaths in order to achieve the higher aim of
stopping the evil that was the Nazi party; before the war began both Britain and France had
the opportunity to make this decision but were unwilling to face the horror that would be
unleashed as a result. The irony is that taking the viewpoint of Machiavelli before 1939
would probably have saved many, many lives.

I think in the business world too the aim justifies the means whatever those means may be.
From my studies in economics I think that a free market is stronger and healthier than one
that is restricted by trade or employment practices. If a company such as Siebel, "known for
its annual 5 percent cull of those employees who are seen to be underperforming" (Thompson,
2002), finds that this employment practice improves profitability then I think this is to be
encouraged. Much is made in the UK (by the Prime Minister himself, for starters) about the
inefficiency of the public sector. Introducing a structure where performance could be
measured and the chaff weeded out would be unpopular but it would make a huge difference to
the value that tax payers receive for their contributions.

The actions of Ghandi and his followers and those of protestors in the American Civil Rights
movement also achieved their aims so the sentiment contained in the statement "the end is
not important, only the means are important" cannot be written off either. But to go back to
a point I made above, Ghandi's advice to the people of Western Europe who elected to fight
against the AXIS was "if these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them"
(Ghandi, 1972). Millions of black people in America still live in poverty and the attitudes
of the government towards them after the hurricane in New Orleans does raise questions as to
how far they still have to go to win equality. Mao Tse Tsung said "political power grows out
of the barrel of a gun", Al Capone said "you can get much farther with a kind word and a gun
than you can with a kind word alone". I am inclined to agree with these two more.

I live in the North West of England and think that if you visited any large city here -
Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington - and conducted an opinion poll you would find the
Machiavellian viewpoint taken much more than Ghandi's. One issue causing much tension is the
issue of immigration - British people perceive that illegal immigrants get a much better
deal than nationals who need help from the state. Much of this furore is whipped up by the
right wing press but when people's livelihoods are threatened they are unlikely to take it
with good grace. I believe that this attitude is held by the people of pretty much every
nation on the planet - but I also believe that most people are quite willing to live and let
live until clever and manipulative leaders are able to bring out the worst in people.


Sorkin, A (1991) A Few Good Men (Screenplay) [Online]
Available from (Accessed 16th March 2008)

Thompson, E (2002) Siebel: 800-Pound Gorilla or Sitting Duck [Online] Gartner Inc.
Available from (Accessed 16th March 2008)

Ghandi, M (1972) Non-violence in peace and war, 1942–[1949] Garland Publishing
The quote is available online at

Both quotes of Mao Tse Tsung and Al Capone were taken from www.brainyquote.com

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