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Moral Critique of Law #13: The 48 Laws of Power

Updated on January 25, 2014

I read the book The 48 Laws of Power out of a curiosity and a hunger for something greater for myself. What I found was a book that could be seen as ruthless and manipulative in it's principles. I have decided to write a series of critiques of each of the laws. I will discuss the good and the bad of the law as well as a key that I've found to upholding the law without losing your morality.

Now, I will discuss Law #13.

Law #13. When asking for help, appeal to people's self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude.

"If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself."

-Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

The Good

In your quest for power, you are going to occasionally have to ask for assistance from those already in power, or just friends and family who you may want to ask to co-sign a loan, lend you money or any other host of essentials that you can not accomplish on your own. So, this law gives you a sense of how you should approach said potential benefactors. Begging is not appealing to the person being begged from, because it leads them to feel like they are losing something for helping you; nor does it appeal to the person doing the begging, because it makes one feel as though (s)he is subjugated to the whims of another person. Not to mention it feels pretty rotten.

Begging and/or "guilt tripping" puts both the asker and the giver in a awkward position. Both can foster resentment in the person you are requesting assistance from. The giver may feel used (eg. "(s)he's only talks to me when (s)he needs something) or it might go to his/her head (eg. "I don't owe you anything!").

However, if you propose a "win-win" situation to the person, they are more likely to get on board with your request. They will not only satisfy their secret selfish desires of personal gain, but they will feel less guilty about their selfish desires (may even feel good about it), because they get to fulfill another desire which is to appear to be a "good/noble person".

The Bad

Although, win-win situations are ideal, playing to other people's self-interests could be morally questionable if the person's self-interests are less than benign. For instance, hostage situations. Usually in such situations the reason people are holding others hostage is so that they can obtain more valuable that serves them but not others. These types of people you don't want to negotiate with no matter the cost.

It is also sometimes difficult to find a person's self-interest without invading someone else's privacy. Snooping and prying and using someone's personal information against them may not always be illegal, but it is morally corrupt.

The Key

The key to upholding this law without losing yourself in deceptive tactics and malicious deals is to only negotiate with people of good-will and high moral standing. Do not negotiate with terrorists or criminals, because there is always a high price to pay for such dealings.

(CONSIDER THIS: This does not mean that you should leave a hostage to the mercy of their captors. Instead, you can think of things that will benefit the malicious entities which they have not considered for themselves. You do not have to give them EXACTLY what they ask for. If a hostage taker says "your money or your life", could you think of something that the hostage taker could benefit from that could be helpful to society?)

Also, don't infringe on another person's personal rights and privacy in order to find out what interests them. If they share their interests on facebook, that is fine. But do not start going through their garbage or asking their underaged children or dentist to feed you information. And DO NOT be a hostage taker!

Have you read The 48 Laws of Power? What did you think of Law #13?

You can probably get this book on for less than $15 or bid on it on eBay, but read it with a compassionate heart and watch the Laws of Power work magic in your business, relationship and life! Then, join the conversation in the comment box below!


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