Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have long been students of Niccolò Machiavelli. The art of war, he wrote, and they apparently agree, requires that the Prince not dismiss morality; instead, he politically defines it. For cruel action to be effective, Machiavelli said, it must be decisive: swift, effective, and short-lived. His famous book, published in 1532, five years after Machiavelli’s death. The methods described by Machiavelli have the general theme of acquiring necessary ends by any means. According to Machiavelli, the greatest moral good is a virtuous and stable state, and actions to protect the country are therefore justified even if they are cruel. For Microsoft, substitute “Company” for “state” and “country.”
Machiavelli was not alone in holding these views.
Caught secretly funding all manner of complaints against Google, as we noted in our earlier post, Bill and Steve had Dave Heiner, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel take out his dog-eared and well annotated copy of The Prince (and unless Microsoft ultimately is successful in shutting down your access to this book now in the public domain, you can read it online yourself, courtesy of Google, if your copy is not handily available). Heiner then penned his attack, implicitly acknowledging that Google’s complaints were correct, but attacking nonetheless. Danny Sullivan, as usual, has a complete, fair, and balanced report on his highly recommended SearchEngineLand blog.As Sullivan says,
Microsoft acknowledges that it’s been trying to influence the relevant regulators with its opinions of Google:
Over the past few months Microsoft, too, has met with the DOJ and the European Commission. The subject of our meetings has been the competition law review, now completed, of the search partnership between Yahoo! and Microsoft. As you might expect, the competition officials asked us a lot of questions about competition with Google—since that is the focus of the partnership. We told them what we know about how Google is doing business.
Microsoft goes on to complain of “Google business practices that tend to lock in publishers and advertisers and make it harder for Microsoft to gain search volume.”
Unfortunately, according to Hans Baron (1900 – 1988), Machiavelli’s motive in writing The Prince was “to entice Lorenzo de Medici to commit the suggested crimes so as to reap the Florentines’ harsh judgment sooner.”
The Googlegazer guesses that neither Gates nor Ballmer ever read Baron.