The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
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The Prince

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/12/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,529 times Debate No: 42259
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




The Question:
Is Niccolo Machiavelli's idea that it is better to be feared than loved correct?
This argument shall take place under the assumption that you have to choose between one of the two. This argument should also take place with both sides making their determination of Machiavelli's statement, viewing the situation like Machiavelli would: looking at a leader's effectiveness, the ability to hold his office and his throne/leadership position. Not based on morality.

Round 1 should consist of either side's opening arguments.
Round 2 shall consist of either side's rebuttals.
Round 3 shall consist of rebuttals to Round 2's rebuttals and closing arguments.

My Argument:
Niccolo Machiavelli was correct in saying that fear is the better tool to control one's state.
1) Fear is a controlling agent. Applied liberally it can paralyze a person into inaction. It can keep people down, and keep you in control.
2) As long as you remain un-hated while being feared, your people are less likely to attempt conspiracies to overthrow you. This is because a lack of hate for you removes motivation for your potential overthrowers to do so, and it adds incentive to refrain from trying to overthrow you, because they fear you and know there is considerable risk in attempting to overthrow you.
3) Example for Consideration: Think of a teacher you have or had that legitimately scared you for whatever reason. Now think of a teacher you have or had that you love(I assume not in the romantic fashion). Certainly there is an aspect of maturity in play here, but in whose classroom would you feel more comfortable talking out of turn in? From my personal experience, it's been the teacher that was easy going and more fun, whom me and my classmates 'love'.



I will like to thank pro for his opening arguments. This debate requires that you draw on only love or fear as your leadership style. In real life this is not a very good idea. One of my good friends had a step-dad as a kid who was feared but not loved. This led to a dysfunctional household and when his wife finally became financially independent, she divorced him. Sure, people obey you from the start but it creates a dysfunctional leadership matrix and people will look for the quickest opportunity to remove you.

A leadership style based purely on love but no fear is also a very bad idea. To have such a leadership style, one would have to never punish workers for mis-steps. So that means no harsh criticism, firing, etc. People would have to be productive only out of love for you. This is a weak form of leadership and was exemplified by the leadership of one of my bosses. Lets call her Lisa. Lisa was always very nice and whenever a worker was out of line, she did nothing harsh to stop them. She never fired anyone who was incompetent.

While this leadership was not ideal, at least we had some semblance of an organization, even though it was not very good. In a leadership style based purely on fear, one would end up making so many enemies that eventually either everyone will leave or someone will replace you. These organizations are even worse.

Fear as a controlling agent

In an ideal world you would be powerful enough to make people fear any action that would go against your will so much that they will never do it. The problem here is that you are not all powerful. People will be able to get away with things. For example Bob, in the example above was so feared that his family would not bring problems to him because they thought he would be angered by them. This resulted in concurring family problems that just kept happening that could have been resolved but didn't.

In a company or country, this means that there will be problems that will go unremediated. Another problem is that people will hide bad things they are doing. One reason for this is that when people fear someone without loving him, hate is going to spring. Of all the professors I can think of, the professors who were feared by us without being loved were also hated and mocked behind their backs. So fear also produces hidden ridicule and disrespect. For example Bob banned his kids from bringing food into their rooms. Since his kids hated him, they would sneak food in when he wasn't around. Fear-based leaderships produces an ineffective organization.

When you are loved, people will be more likely to do things just for your approval. I loved my father and did things as a kid just to get him to notice me. People will go out of their way to impress those they love. I had a friend I really liked, and I was constantly trying to impress him and make him like me more. When he had trouble with his car and called me, I was glad to go over and help him.

If you love your leader, you are more likely to bring your problems to him and see them solved. This created a more functional workplace. People are less likely to step out of line if they want to impress you and make your life better because they love you.

People won't overthrow you

One possible argument is that at least if people fear you, they won't try to overthrow you. Unfortunately, you are not always powerful enough to do so. For example, when Bob's wife was powerful enough to earn her own money independently, she left him. Now he can only see his kids every other weekend and they hate doing it. You almost never remain powerful and on top forever.

You get old. When you get old enough and people realize that your abilities are diminishing, they will take their chance to overthrow you. You also make mistakes and people can use that as a weakness and overthrow you. Keep in mind that even if you become a manager, it is unlikely that you will have no managers or people who can have you fired yourself. If you are constantly making enemies and creating a toxic workplace someone above you will likely have you replaced.

When you are loved, there might be the chance that some jerk might try to take your place. But, since you are loved, fewer people will be likely to try to do that. Also, you will have many allies who will be willing to fight your battles for you.

Teacher Example

Yes, teachers who are feared as less likely to be talked back to. But I have noticed that these teachers tend to be very lonely. And that brings me to another point. When you are not loved, people are not legitimately friendly to you and you tend to spend more time alone. Plus, you begin to realize that people hate and scorn you. That is a really sad place to be even if you are powerful. Bob was a lonely guy and whenever people gave him recognition, he was very happy and thought of them very highly, and least for a time. However, this happened rarely, and even when he was with his family he was lonely and unhappy and this only aggravating his anger issues.

When you are loved, you have people to talk to, people who give to you, and that feeling is great. It is the greatest thing to be loved by the people who follow you.
Debate Round No. 1


Rebuttal 1): Con's Section 'Introduction'

A) Con talks about the drawbacks of ruling entirely with fear, and then ruling entirely with love. He concludes that while neither are ideal, love produces a closer semblance to organization. I would argue against that idea, with this:
Love produces mercy, and mercy taken too far allows for a complete loss of organization and control, whereas having people fearful of the punishments you've set, allows for clear boundaries to be seen, and this preserves organization. I'd like to give credit for my argument back to Niccolo Machiavelli, so I'm going to type out a quote of his that I believe exemplifies this idea that all love and mercy makes for poor organization.
"Because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only." --Niccolo Machiavelli
The punishments utilized by a ruler, which instill fear in the subjects, set clear boundaries and messages as to how things are going to work. As long as the punishments are not unreasonable, and consistent, the people will not hate him for providing structure.

B) Con also states toward the end of his argument that ruling with fear will make you many enemies, and out of these many enemies, you are likely to be overthrown. There is a solution to this as well. Firstly I return to my idea that a leader whose punishments and rules are reasonable and consistent, cannot be hated, even if his people fear his punishments. So if anyone were to break one of these laws, and receive the punishment that is usually applied, those around the punished person cannot say the leader is wrong in enforcing his set laws, which are reasonable.
So assuming those around the punished person can see no reason to hate the leader, what of the punished person himself? The solution to this is held in this quote from Machiavelli:
"Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed, for if you merely offend them they take vengeance, but if you injure them greatly they are unable to retaliate, so that the injury done to a man ought to be such that vengeance cannot be feared." --Niccolo Machiavelli
Con uses a workplace example, and such an example can be used here. If you're the boss, and there's been incompetency on a level that's going to require some form of major punishment, then to avoid creating enemies that can cause you problems, fire the incompetent person. If all the incompetent person's co-workers know you weren't unreasonable, and that you would do it to anyone else, they will not fault you.

Rebuttal 2): Con's Section 'Fear as a Controlling Agent'

A) In this section one of Con's big points is that fear does not inspire confidence in people to talk to their leader. He claims they may be too afraid to bring forth problems that have arisen, and says this can lead to an ineffective leadership. I believe that if this situation occurs, the leader has not been smart in his application of fear. One of Machiavelli's reasons for saying fear is the better method, is because your people are bound by the fear of punishment. As long as a Prince sets consistent laws and punishments, his subjects can know what they should and should not fear from their Prince. A smart Prince would make it clear through his actions that bringing forward a problem is not grounds for punishment. If he were to do this, then his subjects would know that what they should truly fear is allowing the problem to become enlarged to the point where nothing can be done about it, and then having their ruler learn of this problem, and their failure to report it. If the leader gives them cause to only fear that, he need not fear unreported problems.

B) Another reason Con gives for love being the better ruling style, is through the example of Bob's kids sneaking food into their rooms, even though it was against the rules he set. According to Con, they did this because they hated him. I will repeat what Machiavelli says, that you must avoid being hated by your people. I've already devoted many of my allotted characters to explain how a leader can be feared and not hated, so I will keep it brief and just say this: Rules will be respected as long as the person setting them is not hated.

C) Next Con brings up that people who are loved see their subjects doing extra work to meet their approval. I'd like to start my rebuttal with what is currently my favorite quote from Machiavelli:
"I come to the conclusion that, men loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavor only to avoid hatred, as is noted." --Niccolo Machiavelli
While love makes people want to do more for the person they love, and makes them loyal to that person, that can change. As an effective leader, one may have to do something that causes you to lose the love of some or all of your subjects, and then their loyalty is gone. Fear can be the constant, that which is under the control of the ruler.

Rebuttal 3): Con's Section 'People won't overthrow you'

Con brings up the point that a leader can not remain all powerful forever using fear alone to keep his position. I will not dispute this, I think his points here are correct. The question of the debate is whether or not it is better for a ruler to rule with fear or love, and both is not an option. I would say that even though Con's statements about the what will happen to the ruler who uses fear after he eventually loses power are true, I would submit that if a leader were to have ruled with love only, his state would've fallen apart soon before somebody overthrows him or he gets too old to rule effectively. (refer to Rebuttal 1A's Machiavelli quote for why)


Dan4reason forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Hopefully my opponent can respond for this round. I'd ask that any voters consider his forfeiture of the previous round when deciding who had better conduct.

Since there are no rebuttals in Round 2 for me to counter, I will just continue on with my closing statement.

Closing Statement:
The argument is whether ruling completely with fear or completely with love is more effective, in regards to maintaining one's state. Both me and my opponent have been logical in conceding that neither option is truly ideal. We have made many arguments and counter arguments, and I believe mine justify the use of fear. This can be said when choosing between all love or all fear:

All love promotes obligation through positive feelings toward a person, which are (thanks to the unfortunate nature of man) often easily overlooked or cast aside. This casting aside of loyalty can occur if the leader has to do something unpopular for the sake of the greater good, and if the leader is unwilling to do this (as would be the case in the all love style) then disorder and disorganization arises, from a lack of boundaries and allowing problems to grow to unstoppable sizes.

All fear promotes obligation through fear of punishments. These are much easier to maintain, and the loyalty begot by these is not forfeited if a leader must make an unpopular yet necessary decision. Many would ask how fear cannot lead to hate, and since I have already gone through this in my arguments and briefly in the comments section, I won't waste words over it. I will only say that it can be done, and that if fear is applied in a smart fashion, order and boundaries will be maintained much longer than if a leader were ruling through all love.

Thanks to Dan4Reason for the debate! It was awesome!


Dan4reason forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by MyDinosaurHands 5 years ago
Hate comes from what people consider to be unfair abuses or punishments. Fear comes from the knowledge that non-compliance will result in punishment. You avoid hate by setting rules and standards that are uncompromising, but not unreasonable. If you'd like to have the guy who came up with the idea explain it, I highly recommend reading "The Prince", by Niccolo Machiavelli.
Posted by themohawkninja 5 years ago
How can you be feared and not hated?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit.