Position Paper: Niccolo Machiavelli - Is it more effective for a ruler to be feared or loved?

Essay by sadmanbinzamanHigh School, 10th gradeA+, April 2007

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"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."- Martin Luther King, Jr. An effective leader is justified by his approach to troubling situations. Thus there are no constant characteristics that can define an effective leader. For the betterment of his nation, leaders should willing put past their morality.

Concerning cruelty and compassion, and whether it is better to be loved than feared, Machiavelli disputed that political figures should possess both personalities. However he concluded that it was rather impractical to unite them in one person, implying it is safer to be feared than loved. Machiavelli observed the general populace to be ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, and covetous. "As long as you remained in power, they are yours entirely: willing to put their lives on the line." People will become disloyal if circumstances warrant.

Accordingly a prince must exercise his authority, preserving the nation. Nonetheless a prince ought to instill fear in such a manner that, it doesn't promote hatred amongst his people. A wise prince should be more willing to be reputed a miser than be hated for trying to be too generous.

However political concerns have changed dramatically since the late 15th century. While residing in Florence, he witnessed the expulsion of the Medici family, who had ruled Florence for decades, and the rise of Girolamo Savanorola, a Dominican religious fanatic who took control of the region shortly thereafter. Italy at that time became the scene of severe political conflict. City-states, France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire; fought for control of Italy. Each of these powers attempted to pursue a strategy of playing the other powers off of one other. Machiavelli's attitude towards the government, structuring the backdrop...