I now understand why his name has this very negative connotation in relation to the tactics of the powerful. But Machiavelli stated it with such simple matter-of-fact-ness that it’s crazy to think that this is somehow insidious on his part. He simply shows what and how certain things should be done if you intend to hold on to power. And you have to wonder if there’s really a ‘goodie’ way of managing a country, or an estate, when there are so many people over whom you rule who are wolves and foxes. Does this mean to hold on to truly magnanimous and virtuous principles you’re destined not to rule?
Machiavelli insists that a lot of things are a matter of optics. You should appear to be good to the general masses, but ruthless if you intend to consolidate power, especially against people who coming after what’s yours. He makes the point that’s it’s better to be ruthless to a few (by snipping the problems in the bud) and secure peace for everyone, than to be ‘good’ (and play by the rules), risking open warfare with opponents, which potentially hurts far more people.
Nothing is black and white.