It is better to be feared than loved

A question arises: is it better to be loved than feared, or to be feared than loved? The answer is that a prince would like to be both. Yet, since it is difficult to reconcile these two, it is much safer to be feared than loved — if the one must cede to the other.

It may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, fickle, dissembling, hypocritical, cowardly, and greedy. So long as you treat them well, they are all yours. When the need is far off, they will offer you their blood, their property, their lives, and their children. But when the need is at hand, they change their minds. Any prince who relies on their word alone, without any other precaution, is ruined. For friendships acquired through money rather than through greatness and nobility of character may be bought, but they are not owned: they cannot be drawn upon in times of need.

Men are less reluctant to cause trouble for someone who makes himself loved than for someone who makes himself feared. Love is supported by a bond of obligation which, since men are evil, they break on any occasion when it is useful for them to do so; but fear is supported by a dread of retribution which can always be counted on. Nevertheless a prince should make himself feared in such a way that, if he does not gain love, he does avoid hatred: being feared and not being hated are sentiments that readily go together.

3 thoughts on “It is better to be feared than loved

  1. Prince by El Greco. Kind of ironic that the anonymous gentleman has morphed into the prince of celebrity. As to the false dichotomy of being feared or being loved, why not just being respected? (which has elements of both)

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