It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both
“It is better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.”
Thus the ideal situation for a ruler is to be both feared and loved.
The reason for this is simple: humans will support someone they love most of the time,
but that love is limited as a motivation: other loves, and dangers,
can cause the subjects to no longer support the ruler.
A ruler that is loved is loved only as long as that love can lead to gain for the subjects:
once their power weakens, their subjects quickly forget their love.
In contrast, if the subjects fear the ruler, that fear will act as a stronger
guarantee of support: a ruler that is feared will be supported out of fear
of what lack of support will lead to.