Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 544, November 15, 2009

Life goes on.

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Loyalty—Virtue or Vice?
by Paul Bonneau

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

One wonders why loyalty is so strong a characteristic among humans. Generally, the reason we have characteristics is connected to survival, and it is not so hard to imagine the survival value of loyalty. For the millions of years that humans were in tribal society, loyalty to a tribe and a tribal leader was needed to fight the "grass is greener on the other side of the hill" syndrone. The point is, all humans are far from perfect, and loyalty allows us to overlook those imperfections so we can stay within the group that supports us. Leaving a tribe in those days—or getting thrown out of it—was probably a way to a quick death. A quick death means your disloyalty genes don't get passed on (assuming there is a genetic connection), or at least your disloyalty meme also perishes.

In those days, loyalty was clearly a virtue; but when societies started to aggregate, the picture is much less clear.

I used to be a systems engineer in a company named Sequent. They produced an interesting computer that took cheap, almost commodity-level server pc components and combined multiples of these to make very large systems, the most powerful in existence at the time, according to the benchmarks. As a result of very clever design, a large system could be made from a small one by adding more of these components, with very little computing power lost due to software overhead or hardware bottlenecks. That is, it "scaled" very well, in engineering jargon.

It does not appear that loyalty scales very well. What works well for humans in tribal societies, actually can become harmful, that is, working against survival, in societies numbering in the millions.

When Stalin died, many thousands of people lined up to view his coffin and cry over it, rather than to piss into it. There was no cheering in the streets and drunken binges. Loyalty is the reason. Stalin was murderously far from human perfection, yet loyalty (among other things like fear) kept people in line.

It's also true in this country. Our bloodiest Presidents, Lincoln, Wilson and FDR, command the greatest loyalty; although of course a lot of that is due to indoctrination in government schools. The current ruling class has a strong interest in supporting the precedents in centralized power, imposed by these men. But long lines of people also viewed FDR's coffin, and unfortunately refrained from pissing into it.

The lesson of history is clear. Be loyal, locally. Friends and family, despite imperfections, can help you get through the rough spots. Particularly when mega-society collapses, as it soon will do, this is very important. Small collectives can be good for you, as long as you are in them voluntarily. We're about to get a lot more tribal than we have been recently.

On the other hand, be loyal to no one higher up in the ruling class. Becoming a President is an automatic call for disloyalty.

What about Ron Paul? What if he had become President?

Well, it's at least arguable that he never could become President. The ruling class has tried every trick it could, short of assassination, to get him even out of his powerless House seat. Why? Because it embarrassed them to have someone going on about the Constitution all the time.

No, despite the fantasies I have read by libertarians of a good third-party run next time around, there will never be a President interested in losing power and increasing freedom. The system prevents it. It's a rigged game.

Give no loyalty to any politician, certainly none at the national level. They don't deserve it. Or, if you find that hard, at least be prepared to abandon him at the slightest example of compromise against freedom. Don't be like Stalin's idiot admirers, following him to the grave.


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