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Moral Critique of Law #14: 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 #14

Law #14. Pose as a friend, work as a spy.

Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead. Better still: Play the spy yourself. In polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesses and intentions. There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

-Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

The Good

In business, people are always looking for information about their competitiors in order to gain a competitive advantage. After all, "knowledge is power" as they say. The right information can give you a strategic advantage. So, paying attention to the competition is very important. Whether you're a business person or just an employee, it will come in handy to know what the other person is up to. It can help you make decisions about yourself. Perhaps you want to set yourself apart, you don't want to wear what everyone else is wearing if your intenton is to stand out. Then again, you may want to know what the standard is, it will be very necessary to know pay attention in order to know that. Exposure to your competition in your field of choosing is half the battle.

So many of us get lost in the media and marketing that is going on now-a-days. We're impulsive. We buy what they tell us to buy, we watch what they tell us to watch, we listen to what they tell us to listen to. However, if you have a goal, it is important to strategically place yourself to gain specifically the right information to get you ahead.

"80% of success is showing up."

The Bad

It's hard to justify deceit. Although, finding out essential information that makes you competitive in your field can be noble, especially if your field is the cure for AIDS, it will still be hard for you to get much vindication if you are caught spying on your competition. Consider watergate. Richard Nixon spied on Ted Kennedy and with all his power and all his popularity, he still lost face in the public eye by this one act of deceit. Now, nobody remembers any of the good he may have done as president, all they remember is him shamefully declaring "I am not a crook."

Furthermore, you will garner a lot of resentment from your "friend" when he or she finds out you are a spy. You may even make an enemy. That's not a great place to be.

"No man is an island..."

Even though being a spy sounds exciting, it doesn't seem to leave room for friendships. If you're always acting as a spy, who will you enjoy down time with? When will you have the opportunity to take off your "work clothes" and enjoy the simple things in life like telling a good joke or sharing a fun story? Spying on everyone can leave you stressed out and unhealthy. So, though it sounds "sexy", it is quite complicated. The movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith tells the story of a married couple who spies on each other, imagine your whole life being tied to an intimate enemy. Doesn't sound so glamorous, now, does it?

The Key

The key to upholding this law without losing your morals is to seek the information is a noble way. In this technological age, all you need to know is right there on the internet. The information you need is probably already on a blog, youtube, facebook page or on twitter somewhere. There's no real need to "spy" per se no matter how exciting the idea may seem. Information is free now-a-days. Seek it, but don't break any laws to get it.

Also, if you are in the position where the information you seek is not readily available online (for example, proprietary journals for professionals) consider seeking a mentor in your field who has access to these information and requesting tutelage. Often times, this is simpler than we might think.

The biggest moral deficit in spying is the deceitful nature of such a venture. To be a spy, one must convince others that they are someone whom they are not or they were somewhere where they were not. If information can be gathered without taking this route, all the better.

Have you read The 48 Laws of Power? What did you think of Law #14?

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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