What is Machiavelli's basic argument on the question of whether a ruler ought to be loved or feared?
Machiavelli definitely believed that it was better to be feared than to be loved. He said that it was best of all to be both feared and loved, but that the two rarely go together.
The major reason, according to him, that fear is better is that love is too likely to be faked. He says that people are naturally a bunch of liars and will only pretend to love you while you are strong. Then when you are weak they will destroy you.
So, it's better to rule by fear because that doesn't rely on your subjects. It is maintained by punishment, which is something that "you" the prince, will always be able to do (as long as you are in power).
check Approved by eNotes Editorial