If someone wants to understand the politics and economic issues that influence affordable housing and the manufactured industry, sooner or later, one will come across the Manufactured Housing Institute or MHI.
As with many organizations, MHI has its supporters and detractors. A ranking staffer in a Democratic House of Representative’s member’s office told MHLivingNews that MHI had a reputation as being “anti-consumer.” Other views run the gamut, which is why this is a topic worth probing.
Some have asked why the allegation has been made that MHI is Machiavellian? To answer that question, one should begin with an understanding of Niccolò Machiavelli and some quotes and notions from his most famous treatise, The Prince. From there, a systematic approach will evolve that will address the headline topics.
Who Was Machiavelli and Why is the Prince Still Popular Hundreds of Years After it Was Written?
“The Prince is a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli,” says Wikipedia.
“The Prince” was circulated as early as 1513 but only published in 1532, five years after the author’s death. It effectively established Machiavelli as the father of political science and made his name synonymous with scheming and intrigue,” wrote Camille Tirapelli, former Manager at Fred Meyer in Quora. “The term “Machiavellian” isn’t a compliment, and that’s largely thanks to Niccolò Machiavelli’s famous 16th century political treatise [named]“The Prince.””
Tirapelli similarly noted that The Prince was written to impress the Medici, hoping for a serious position by highlighting his understanding of the intrigues of statecraft. She said that “After failing to impress the Medici with “The Prince,” Machiavelli lived nearly another decade and a half, eventually dying in 1527. During his later years, he wrote several more works and ran a few odd diplomatic errands for the Medici.”
“Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t a very tactful person… He basically says, ‘I’m not going to tell you the things you want to hear, but the things you really need to hear if you want to hold onto power,’” Unger said. “What makes his book so revolutionary is that he’s really one of the first people to write [a]bout the world the way it actually is, not the way it ought to be. He’s very clear about this. And of course, if you’re Lorenzo de’ Medici and you think of yourself as this great lord, you don’t really want some bureaucrat telling you all the gritty, nasty details of how to hold onto power.“
“It’s as if someone like [Democratic advisor] John Podesta sent off an email to [President] Trump saying, ‘Look, I may have been on the other side, but I have a lot of experience, I know how things work in Washington, why don’t you hire me and I’ll tell you how to run things?'” Unger says. “You could imagine how that would go over.”
That brief introduction should serve to introduce those readers who are not already familiar with the name Machiavelli and why it is associated with “scheming” and the “gritty, nasty details of how” to get or “hold onto power.”
Michael A. Ledeen wrote a treatise entitled “Machiavelli on modern leadership Why Machiavelli’s iron rules are as timely and important today as five centuries ago.” He mentions Bill Gates about 2 dozen times and Warren Buffett 4 times. Gates and Buffett have collaborated in various ways in business for years, as well as in their use of nonprofits to advance their goals.
Several authors make the point that certain Buffett thoughts seem to reflect statements made by Machiavelli. The same is true for Bill Gates being tied to Machiavellian mischief.
An example of a hypocritical leader is Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Although he spoke openly as an advocate for entrepreneurial innovation, he worked ruthlessly to gain an anti-competitive monopoly control over his industry sector and the government went after Microsoft in an antitrust dispute (Kapor, 1998), wrote Clovia Hamilton in Technology Innovation Management Review. But Hamilton also made the point that not everything that Machiavelli wrote as manipulative or evil, using in that same article this quote as an example “To slaughter fellow-citizens, to betray friends, to be devoud of honour, pity and religion, cannot be counted as merits, for these are means which may lead to power, but which confer no glory.” (Machiavelli, 1992)
Machiavellian Thinking By Billionaires Involved in Manufactured Housing
While some condemn all of the ultrawealthy, there are millions that are okay with the notion of large sums of money honestly earned – so long as it is honestly earned.
The outline above is more than sufficient to make the point that several thinkers in business and academia have connected some of the world’s richest people, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, with specific unethical observations and stratagems advanced by Machiavelli.
Is that justified? Let’s look.
The following quotes with bullets are all from GoodReads, unless otherwise noted. Some will have commentary or quotes relative to Warren Buffett, to keep this analysis as simple as possible. Each bullet is a quote, and the author and the book title follow the – line.
- “Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
- “…he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.” – Machiavelli Niccolo, The Prince
- “The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince (Notice: the word ‘vulgar’ can have several meanings, some are an insult, others are more about something being common or widespread. Examples of such definitions include: “lacking sophistication or good taste; unrefined.” “Making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions; coarse and rude.” Or the latter point noted, “characteristic of or belonging to the masses.”
- “Men in general judge more by the sense of sight than by the sense of touch, because everyone can see but few can test by feeling. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are; and those few do not dare take a stand against the general opinion.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
Those quotes are similar to an observation made about Warren Buffett by writer — who politely phrased examples of purported deception as “contradictions.” Buffett, arguably like Machiavelli, believes people don’t pay enough attention and are thus often subject to deception.
The following makes a similar point.
- “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
- “The best fortress which a prince can possess is the affection of his people.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
- “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
- “Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
Those references to wild animals and a fortress are similar to Warren Buffett’s reference to the Castle (a kind of fortress in Machiavelli’s days) and having the waters of the moat around the castle filled with man-eating amphibians.
- “If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
- “…it is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
- “The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
- “Where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
- “Men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
- “Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.” -Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
Those are ‘the ends justifies the means’ sort of thoughts where deception and hypocrisy are accepted as okay. Does Buffet engage in those Machiavellian ploys? Doesn’t quotes from his own son in speaking of how so-called philanthropists like his father operate suggest as much?
The case can be made that Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway, along with a relatively few aligned companies, dominate the Manufactured Housing Institute. This occurs in two ways. One, is through the so-called MHI Executive Committee and board of directors.
The other is through dues. A nonprofit trade group is unlikely to buck the largest dues-payers. It has been observed several times, from inside and outside of manufactured housing, that if Clayton Homes and the other Berkshire owned brands withdrew from MHI, the organization would quickly have to make drastic cuts or it would fall into insolvency.
MHProNews has made that argument for some time, and neither MHI, their outside attorneys, nor leaders at Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage Corporation, Vanderbilt Mortgage et al even questioned that reasoning.
With these facts outlined, some other statements now come into sharper focus.
MHLivingNews and our MHProNews sister site have for years made the point that the wheat must be separated from the chaff with all people and things. If you asked Buffett, he could point to ‘qualifiers’ he made to his castle and moat stratagem. For instance, as a qualifier, Buffett has said that the moat “can be because it’s the low-cost producer in some area, it can be because it has a natural franchise because of surface capabilities, it could be because of its position in the consumers’ mind, it can be because of a technological advantage, or any kind of reason at all, that it has this moat around it.” That certainly sounds benign.
But the reality is that Buffett and Gates, who until recently has sat on the Berkshire Hathaway board of directors since 2004, have been caught up in antitrust related issues off and on for years.
The argument can be made that they have each used nuanced language that signals to investors that grasp the ploy how the castle and moat with alligators, sharks and other deadly predators is a slow-motion scheme to build a monopoly. That is reasonably why Clayton Homes and their related lenders have been specifically accused of monopolistic practices time and again.
Just because someone has figured out how to cross the legal and moral lines while posturing being an angel doesn’t mean that they should escape scrutiny. If purportedly illicit activities have been engaged in, they should be explored and dealt with according to the law.
In the U.S. there is a tragic history of how once ‘respected’ organizations and their corporate leaders were discovered to be con-artists in fine clothes with private jets. While the nature of the illegalities differed, each of the examples cited below spotlight how once respected titans of industry in the 21st century escaped serious notice until the evidence was so great that they could no longer escape justice.
Bernie Madoff, WorldCom and Enron have become synonymous with multi-billion dollar rip-offs. They each escaped regulatory reviews for years, until they were finally brought down.
There is an argument to be made that the system in the U.S. is rigged in a way that both the left and right may not always completely grasp. The core problem is the monopolization of America. Antitrust laws need to be vigorously enforced. Deceptive trade practices and other illegal actions should apply to the uber rich the same as the man or woman on the street.
The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) has been called the Monopolistic, Machiavellian and Manipulative Housing Institute for reasons that the related reports linked herein and below the byline explore. But it is safe to say that there is a reasonable argument to be made that several prominent people in the industry, wittingly or not, are using the kinds of strategies that made Niccolò Machiavelli’s work a staple in politics and business five centuries after it was written.
There are plenty of reasons to think about the apparent connections between some of the strategies of the uber-rich, Niccolò Machiavelli’s often dark thinking, the impact on affordable housing and manufactured home owners. To learn more, see the related reports below, or dozens of other articles here on MHLivingNews, where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, lifestyle news, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.)
(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.