Law 26: Why Powerful People Blame Others

This video script is about the character Logan Roy in the TV show Succession. In one episode, he solves a personal problem using the 26th law of power.

Mr. Roy’s gold digger girlfriend wants to become a news anchor at his company. She wants to use her relationship with him to get the job. But during the course of the episode, we learn that she doesn’t have the skills. This puts him in a problematic position with conflicting interests.

  1. Mr. Roy is very old and quite grumpy. His girlfriend probably isn’t into him because of his personality. So he needs something to trade to keep her interested. Mr. Roy needs to give her a career opportunity.
  2. Mr. Roy wants his company to continue to grow. So he needs to keep unskilled workers out. He knows people don’t like to hear that they are unskilled. They prefer to point the finger and blame. So he wants to be as far away from the decision to torpedo his girlfriend’s dream as possible.

Mr. Roy needs what Law 26 of the 48 laws of power calls a “cats paw.”

Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean

“You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency: Your hands are never soiled by mistakes and nasty deeds. Maintain such a spotless appearance by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to disguise your involvement.”

So what is the difference between a cat’s paw and a scapegoat?

Scapegoating is when you blame a person for a bad result. The scapegoat doesn’t necessarily cause the failure. They just take the blame.

In contrast to scapegoating, a cat’s paw is the person or thing that causes the problem. It is a pawn the brings about the unpleasant result of the puppet master. It is a tool that allows the person to distance themselves from the unsavory deed while still bringing it about.

You might think, “oh these are just weird tricks in a book, no one does this.” But you’d be wrong.

This these power moves are surprisingly common. See if you can spot how Companies use scapegoats and cat’s paws in these clips.


Companies scapegoat the economy when they lay off employees. Managers use those lower down the chain as tools for delivering unsavory information.

Mr. Roy does the same thing to get out of the situation with his girlfriend. He hints that she shouldn’t make the cut. His underlings, Tom and Greg, become the cat’s paws. As you’ll learn later, this is actually a key power move for both Greg and Tom.

As expected, Mr. Roy’s girlfriend gets aggressive and seeks a target for her anger. But she never suspects Mr. Roy.

Here are some tips for using scapegoats and cats paws.

Scapegoat Power Tips

  1. Talk up the scapegoat long before you need to use it. Companies do this when they talk about the difficult economy or blame their competitors for bad outcomes. Coworkers do this when they talk about how their roommates, family, or friends cause them to be tired, ineffective, or cranky. Whining can be a sort of power move.
  2. However, Sometimes you want people to know you are responsible. It can instill fear or connection when you admit you are the source of someone’s problems.
  3. Beware always passing blame to others as it makes you look unreliable. If people see your hand everywhere there are problems, it won’t be long until they dynamic changes. You’ll soon become the enemy.

Cat’s Paw Power Tips

  1. When choosing a pawn, use someone who has an incentive to make the move you require. It will make the situation seem more authentic and less contrived. For example, if his girlfriend had an enemy at the company, Mr. Roy could have had her enemy deliver the news. Use someone outside your immediate circle so they won’t see the greater strategy at play. This will increase the distance between the event and your image. This is why Mr. Roy has Tom. To do the things he doesn’t want to be seen doing. This is also why Tom has Greg. In exchange, each receives power.
  2. It follows then, If you are seeking power, that you should find someone that doesn’t have a cat’s paw. Offer to play the “bad guy” role. You can attack arguments that hurt their position. You can perform tasks that they don’t want. When people defend their boss at work, or do some difficult task that no one else wants to do, this is what they are up to.
  3. But you only want to be a pawn if it is going to lead to a good result for you. Figure out what the people around you really want. Find their true goals. Then you can decipher the role you might play in their plans.

If you want to increase your strategic skills, there’s no better way than to learn game theory. Check out our video on Tommy Shelby’s strategic genius. In you’ll learn a practical version of game theory that anyone can start using right now.

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