"Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared, or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either [one or the other] must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men [of Machiavelli's age], that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed, they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince [!!!] who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation [and in the modern world, by a reputation which is as swift as lightning, and can quickly span the entire globe] 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."

_The Prince_, by Nicolo Machiavelli, Chapter XVII

Machiavelli and the Legacy of Fear

Machiavelli was right, for his time and place in the world, within that point in history, but are we to have our attitudes and behaviors forever determined by history, or merely informed by it? Machiavelli himself provides many more caveats to his policy of ruling through fear than the above quote can contain: that the prince should be feared but not hated; that he should not confiscate the property of his subjects without extreme provocation; that he should not take the life of one of his subjects without a proper justification being known to all; that fear is most necessary to command and control an army, rather than a civilian populace; and that boundless valour must accompany inhuman cruelty for that cruelty to be truly effective.

Needless to say, all this applies to a kingdom which is ruled, not as a democracy or a republic, but by a monarchy and the attendant nobility. Does "ruling" through fear have any place in the modern world, where we presume that the governed are ruled by their silent assent, if not voiced consent? Can any modern leader "rule" through the power of fear? While fear can be used as a deterrent to crime, and increasingly ineffectively, are we to believe that the opposition or displeasure of the government ought to be sufficient Moral and Social imperative for fear and punishment of citizens? Really???

See Also:

The Revolutionary Pleasure of Thinking for Yourself, by various anonymous authors

Machiavelli – use fear of the leadership to suppress fear of enemies and disasters (Suppress panic and dread to maintain Command & Control) The fear of the prevailing scarcity of basic necessities is a large factor here as well, as there is little room to provide what is needed by the populace in general, much less to provide for more individualized needs and wants; what room there is for Individualized Consideration is reserved for powerful and influential allies -Maintain control over knowledge of the context of the various situations and oppositional forces and enemies of the leadership, through lack of resources and sources of information (Propaganda) When negative emotions (fear, anger, sorrow, anguish) are the prevailing emotions in a society, suppressing emotion has a low cost, and not suppressing emotions has a high cost: in an environment where positive emotions prevail, the opposite is true; suppressing emotion costs the leadership all of the subordinates’ best efforts and constructive impulses In ruling through fear, everyone is equally distrusted (and ought to be), whereas in love, different subordinates can be trusted to do different tasks of their own choosing and initiative, and the amount of trust to be applied depends only on merit and capability for that task. As tasks and decision-making are more broadly distributed, more attention can be paid to each person’s unique needs (Individualized Consideration) The Fear system makes for a powerful and concentrated hierarchy which is effective in the most simplistic and forceful way; the latter system of Love is vastly more useful in complex and delicate environments, in which brute force is more destructive of the ends sought than helpful.

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