Buddy Fletcher was able to use his financial success and philanthropy to win respect and power. His high esteem combined with his ability to deliver strong profits lead to blind deference. As Machiavelli wrote, “he who is highly esteemed is not easily conspired against”11 (Ch. 19). In the beginning of his career, Fletcher embodies the spirit of a Machiavellian leader by commanding influence through his success. However, in the spirit of Kant, he seems to adhere to strong moral principles, such as not lying and using others as merely means to his end.
However, as details of his success were revealed, his moral character becomes increasingly questionable. Firstly, he did not disclose the methods by which he was making enormous profits, and the stakeholders, with their singular desire for profit, did not care about the legitimacy of its conception nor did not ask questions. As Machiavelli writes, “It is unnecessary for a prince to have all good qualities… but it is very necessary for a prince to appear to have them”11 (Ch. 18). Fletcher looked like an upstanding citizen. He donated to charity and was extremely smart and charming. Machiavelli also writes, “the means will always be considered honest… because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it”11 (Ch. 18). This points to Fletcher’s ability to appeal to unwitting investors, paralleling the “common folk” Machiavelli rudely called “the vulgar”. Through charm and exciting results, he convinced many to invest in his fund. As long as he maintained the image and promise of high returns, it did not matter how the ends were achieved.
As we now know, it was all a fugazzi, and his motivations were self-serving. He took money directly out of the funds for personal use and was not successful in generating the high returns he promised. While Machiavelli would have supported this deception, Kant would not. He lied, cheated and stole his way to a position of influence, harming many in the process.
Machiavelli also writes that the end justifies the means11 (Ch. 18). According to this, any casualties in the process of attaining his goal are justified if the long-term goal is accomplished. In the case of Buddy Fletcher, he believes that his actions are justified because they serve a greater goal of promoting civil rights, his major philanthropic cause. However, in the process of acquiring wealth to promote civil rights, he loses millions of dollars of investor funds, ultimately not even securing funds to promote his causes.
Kant’s ethical theory provides an unwavering framework for determining the ethics of actions. Kant believed that actions could be dictated by a set of maxims that govern our actions. Further, these actions must be universalizable. By making actions dependent on maxims, Kant says that the “morality of our actions depends not on their results, but on our maxims”12 (pg. 148). By acting in accordance to a maxim,...