Some centuries after Nicola Machiavelli was dead, many people continue asking themselves if the aim can justify no ethical actions, however, this is not the real problem or the current world. The inheritance of the Machiavellian politics is common in our societies. Politicians always used the concept of the greatest good to justify some decisions, people are aware of it, and they can endure many efforts following this concept, but nobody would consider these politicians as Machiavellian.
If we look at complexity management to analyze this we could see and understand better its meaning. The greatest good can be seen as the course of a ship, and sometimes the surge is so strong that we cannot preserve the course, and the captain of the ship must change it in order that the waves do not wreck it.
The Machiavellian concept of politics is only a way to preserve the power of the state, or the ship under control of the captain, in order that the rulers can put the ship to the previous course when the storm has been gone.
Nowadays, although many politicians could be considered Machiavelli’s advantaged students our societies have legal methods to avoid the excesses of the governments. There are limits to the actions that a government can implant, the greatest good is defined by law, and it is not to preserve the power of a certain government. The greatest good is never a government in front of the anarchy; the greatest good is always the future welfare of the citizens and this one can never justify acting against them.
In the same way as in a ship the second commanding officer can take the lead when the captain is endangering the crew, most of our modern societies have chosen democracy and a constitution as the way to assure that a government cannot steal the effort of their citizens. Government can always be changed by a second commanding officer if they do this. They should not claim to be thieves justifying it under the concept of the greatest good.
The problem of our societies is not that one, our most common current problem is complexity. In a complex world, things are not done following a systemic viewpoint, following the greatest good. Things are done following procedures. Procedures are a way to divide a complex tactics in simpler tasks that can be managed easily. As the difference between the size of the tactics and the size of the task increases, there is no way to see the aim of the tactics from the managing of a single task. This can be used by a Machiavellian member of the government to change the greatest good by its personal aim. Imagine that you are planning a navigation route for a plane: you can take advantage of navigation beacons and prepare a global route from smaller point to point local ones. Nobody can know which one is you final destination, only which one is your next local one.
In this situation, managing actions are evaluated looking only at the development of a single task instead of the development of the whole planning, and this is the way as complexity is changing our perception of the greatest good. The greatest good is never following a certain procedure but finally get the destination, there are many routes that you can plan in order to reach a certain destination and probably the most direct is never the safest one. More than one plane have crashed searching for a geodesic reference at the top of a mountain through the fog.
Men are creatures of habit, we tend to choose the previous procedure to reach the same destination, however, weather can change and fitting the procedure can be destructive under a strong storm. This is not a sentence against experience but the contrary. As the captain is more experienced, they can know more local points to establish different routes and they can understand better where a safer next local point that put us nearer the final destination can be.
Quantitative complexity measurement is a tool that has two important characteristics. It is a systemic measurement and it is related to the safety of the global planned route. People do not need to trust blindly in an inexpert captain that only know to listen the code of the next beacon, if there are people that have put a lot of satellites around the Earth in order that we can know precisely where we are, looking at a GPS device, and where storms are, looking at the weather satellite images.
If the captain does not want to look at the GPS and the satellite images because they are very technically sophisticated instruments and he thinks that they must be “devil’s devices”, perhaps he should be substituted by the second commanding officer at once.