To be Loved Outweighs Being Feared
In 1513, Italian political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his famous treatise known as The Prince. In a brief summation, The Prince is a set of guidelines that describes how someone in 16th century Italy could gain power and then eventually retain that newly acquired influence. His ideas were radical for the time, but today they still stand as a guide for modern philosophical writing. In this intriguing piece of political philosophy, Machiavelli poses the question of whether it is better to be loved or feared as a leader.
To answer this question it is best to look at examples of leaders throughout history, for that is really the only reference point in delving into such a complex inquiry. Of course, the easy way out is to say that its better to be both loved and feared, but we all know in reality that this is a nearly unattainable feat. Although it’s nice to think it would be possible to be that “ideal” leader, how could someone be feared and loved at the same time? Maybe history will show that it is possible, but up until now we have yet to see a pure example. Machiavelli writes, “The answer is that one would like to be both the one and the other; but because it is difficult to combine them, it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.” He thought that in his time (16th century Florence under Medici family rule) that this was the correct way to rule. Does it stand true in today’s political world?
Examples of modern leaders who have been feared are Stalin and Ahmedinejad. Both men ruled (in Ahmedinejad’s case still ruling) their respective nations by using fear as the driving force of their policy making. Stalin drove The Soviet Union into the Cold War and struck fear into the eyes of his subjects by using his socialistic tendencies to redistribute wealth throughout The Soviet Union. Also, as tensions with the Western world seemed to increase, the Soviet Union became more and more self-contained and resorted to propaganda and a secret police force to help maintain order in their chaotic society. This fear made the Soviet subjects too scared to stand up to unjust policy, thus making Stalin and the Soviet Union very powerful. Ahmedinejad has used fundamentalist Islamic beliefs mixed with his sense of radicalism to make Iran a self contained nation that has a Napoleonic complex of sorts. Although they are a smaller nation in stature when compared to many western countries, their recent nuclear weapon program has made them a force to be reckoned with. Many westerners consider Ahmedinejad to be a madman, so that fact that Iran now has nuclear capability is a very scary thought. In addition it has also made Iran powerful when it comes to the considerations of global safety. Both men received their power because people assumed that if they didn’t comply then they would be killed. In my opinion, that is as good a reason as any to blindly follow a leader.
Do leaders who are loved (the antithesis of the aforementioned two) garner just as much power? Unlike Machiavelli, I think that they do. There is a certain aura that comes from having support of the masses. Although they don’t rule by having their citizens’ fear for their lives on a daily basis, these leaders do gain respect and therefore the allegiance of their people. As cliché as it might sound, my optimistic view is that at some point respect outweighs fear when it comes to leadership. In summation, I think that although to be feared is a very powerful attribute, to be loved is something much more.