In this article we investigate the value and utility of Machiavelli’s work for Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM). We made a selection of five topics derived from literature on NRM and CBNRM: (1) Law and Policy, (2) Justice, (3) Participation, (4) Transparency, and (5) Leadership and management. We use Machiavelli’s work to analyze these topics and embed the results in a narrative intended to lead into the final conclusions, where the overarching theme of natural resource management for the common good is considered. Machiavelli’s focus on practical realities produces new, sometimes unsettling, insights. We conclude that this focus helps to understand the development and performance of management regimes and their consequences and that institutional design should be seen as an ongoing process, which requires a constant adaptation of these institutions.