Machiavelli, the Italian philosopher, was famous for his work The Prince - a book he wrote in 1513.
The Prince was where he wrote the famous line: ‘better to be loved than feared or feared than loved?’ The
public have mixed views on the topic and therefore sprouted different insights to it. Although the public
would prefer a leader that they love, they need a leader to fear. If they fear a leader, they fear the actions.
Although it it easier to be feared, the importance of it lies entirely with the leader and the way they
manipulate the fear. Lee Kuan Yew, Machiavelli, Jack from Lord of the Flies, and John Locke all have
evidence that supports this theory.
Lee Kuan Yew was the Senior Minister of Singapore before passing at the age of 91. He governed
Singapore with an iron fist which is one of the reasons that it is such a safe city-state. When the article from
The New York Times was published in his passing, the author writes: ‘His leadership undoubtedly helped
make Singapore one of the richest and least corrupt countries in the world.’ In a way, the author of the article
had praised Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership skills and the way that it had turned Singapore into the place it is
today. Lee Kuan Yew has used intimidation to his advantage, and showed no shame in doing so. He reveled
in the fact that his use of power was getting noticed. Singapore is one of the safest places in the world and if
Lee Kuan Yew lead the country as a democracy, then it certainly would not have been. If a leader uses
coercion and fear to improve the country in the best way possible, there should be no reason for them to be
overthrown. Machiavelli actively agrees with the statement in his book, The Prince.
Machiavelli’s The Prince is a perfect example of using coercion to stay in power. Although he
became a philosopher for the money and fame, his ideas were not put to waste. His idea about a Prince
doing whatever it takes to stay in power is a perfect example as to why it is better to be feared than loved.
When describing men and what they would do for their ruler, Machiavelli writes: ‘you succeed they are
yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children,’ Machiavelli always believed that
men were not born tabula rasa - contrary to popular belief - and that men were born with a little bit of evil
already in them, Machiavelli often writes that people are dishonest and always need something. Having this
said already, Machiavelli thought that with a ruler that knows the people, this would change. The people
would offer anything - like their blood, life, and children - when the need is distant, but as soon as the time
comes, they will turn against you. Why should the ruler use any other form of power except for coercive? If
the people do not treat the Prince with respect and kindness, there is no need for the Prince to either. Many
other philosophers - like John Locke - disagreed with Machiavelli’s approach to monarchy and leadership in
John Locke was an English philosopher who is well known for his idea of the Social Contract. Locke
deeply believed that you were allowed to overthrow a ruler if they are abusing their power: ‘If the
government fails to deliver, the people have the right to revolt’. Although this idea works, it is not entirely
reasonable. Lord of the Flies is a perfect example of two different sides of government at battle, and the
coercive side ended up winning. Although Jack used fear and coercion to get what he wanted, he also
provided resources that the people needed, such as meat. If he had asked politely, his influence over the boys
would not have such a large effect. Ralph was very eager to get off the island, therefore skipping steps in
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The first step is Physiological Needs, a step that Jack was eager to fulfill with
his attempts of killing the pigs. When the boys were choosing the chief of the island, Jack’s choir boys voted
for him: ‘With dreary obedience the choir raised their hands’ (Golding, 23). The choir boys felt obligated - in
a sense - to trust Jack again, because if he was in power before, it must have been for a good reason. Jack’s
use of legitimate power - followed alongside coercive - is what made the choir boys still respect, and fear,
him after all this time. Even though Locke’s view on the Social Contract was insightful, it is not always the
most reasonable. Locke had not mentioned which offences the leader would have to commit, therefore how
could the public know which ones were worth impeaching their leader for?
Even though it is easier to be feared than loved, it is the best approach, since the public will be too
afraid to revolt. Leave with the words of Bruce Lee, famous actor and director: “Knowledge will give you
power, but character will give you respect.” The character of a leader must not always be intimidating, and it
must not always be compassionate. The ruler must do what they have to in order to keep their nation safe
Board, The Editorial. “Lee Kuan Yew’s Mixed Legacy in Singapore.” The New York Times, The New
York Times, 23 Mar. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/03/24/opinion/lee-kuan-yews-mixed-legacy-in-
Golding, William. “The Sound of the Shell.” Lord of the Flies, Perigee Literature, 1954, p. 23.
Locke, John. The Social Contract. 1689.
Machiavelli, Niccolò. “The Prince.” The Prince, 1513.