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Loyalty: The Bludgeon Of Con Artists and Scammers

I have no like or respect for Governor Bill Richardson but I did take a moment of pleasure at the thought of him delivering the Automatic Liars a good kick in the teeth.

Now Radley has commentary on that most giant of lying pricks, that enormous fuckwad James Carville. But the politics of the thing are peripheral to what really interests me.

I’ve always though the alleged virtue of loyalty is way overrated.

Look, it’s even simpler that that. The only reason the concept of loyalty really exists is to con, guilt-trip, or scam someone into signing onto something for which there isn’t sufficient reason, value, or desire in it for them to do so on those bases alone.

Loyalty is for stupid suckers, unless of course one is talking about loyalty to truth, honesty, justice, reality, morality. But if you really pay attention, loyalty is most often employed in the attempt to circumvent all of those.

I have never in my life admonished loyalty to anything but reality. I would consider it an effrontery to do so.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

8 Comments

  1. Kyle Bennett on March 30, 2008 at 17:07

    What Carville was referring to was open-ended loyalty, which is of course all you say it is. But I think you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    Loyalty is a type of relationship, a mutual commitment. But it doesn't inherently have to be open-ended and "undying" loyalty. Consider a loyal fan of some music artist. Even when the artist puts out a crap album, the loyal fan still buys it, still goes to the concerts, still listens to it occasionally. But if he puts out enough crap, conveying that either he is unable or unwilling to continue to earn the loyalty of his fans, or that his artistic values have changed so that the loyalty becomes misplaced, the fans drift away.

    My last job was a similar situation. They treated me right and kept their commitments to me, and so I was not going to leave for just any reason. At the end, they made some strategic decisions (that I agreed with and even advised them on) that basically eliminated the job I was hired to do. They were willing to keep me on doing other kinds of work, but I found another job instead. We parted on good terms, because both of us had continued to earn each other's loyalty to the end – but it became obvious that the loyalty no longer served any purpose.

    The purpose of loyalty is so each party knows it can count on the other without having to continuously renegotiate terms. My current job is the same. I might be able to find $5K more somewhere else, but I'm not going to so long as they treat me right. For an additional $10K or $15K, on the other hand, I might leave – loyalty does not mean sacrifice. They know and accept that, and if the market was such that that became a real possibility, I'm sure they'd either give me a raise or accept my leaving on good terms.

  2. Richard Nikoley on March 30, 2008 at 17:40

    Yea, I have no argument with any of that.

    But to me, you're simply making value judgements and trade offs for your own sake. You're willing to give up, because either there are other values you enjoy, uncertainty, or whatever else comrises the balance sheet.

    The point is you're operating for your own calculated best interest.

    I'm pretty sure that's not what Carville was talking about, and I think there's a lot of people (GWB is big "loyalty" guy, so I've heard) who use loyalty as a guilt trip and that's essentially what I'm arguing against.

  3. Kyle Bennett on March 30, 2008 at 21:09

    The point is you're operating for your own calculated best interest.

    Well, that's the point of dispute, whether loyalty, per se, conflicts with pursuing your honestly calculated self-interest. I mean, that's the basis of any moral question. Your initial post said, in effect, that it does.

    So does what I described, seeing as it doesn't violate HCSI, still define "loyalty", or is it something else.

    I'm pretty sure that's not what Carville was talking about,

    No, he was talking about an open-ended commitment, which is basically slavery of one sort or another.

  4. Richard Nikoley on March 30, 2008 at 22:55

    I think that the very best that can be said of the notion of the "virtue" of loyalty is that it's superfluous. If someone is acting in their own self interest and it's seen by others as "loyalty," well then indeed the person is acting virtuously, because he's acting for his own values. But "loyal" is at best a superfluous description and at worse, misidentifies the true source of the virtue, which is acting for ones values and not against them for the benefit of someone else which could easily be understood by describing virtuous action in that manner.

    Does that make more sense?

  5. Kyle Bennett on March 31, 2008 at 05:52

    But "loyal" is at best a superfluous description and at worse, misidentifies the true source of the virtue,

    Ahh, that gets at the point. I'm looking at it the other way. Rather than loyalty being a virtue, I see it as a value. And of course all values can be given or taken virtuously or otherwise.

    which is acting for ones values and not against them for the benefit of someone else

    I think loyalty, instead of superfluous, denotes a particular form of acting for ones values – that of valuing the relationship higher than the immediate benefits of a particular exchange within that relationship.

  6. Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2008 at 09:58

    Yea, that might be getting to the real essence of it. In other words, loyalty, properly engaged, is to emphasize a medium or long term value over a short term "issue" with that value, within certain conditions and limits according to one's values.

    But it still seems superfluous, to me, or it smells like an attempt to get something over on someone. Far more honest to just say, "Look: this is shitty, you're welcome to walk if you want, and I wouldn't blame you if you did, but look at the past, the possibility of the future, consider sticking with me and if you do, I'll do everything I can to make it up."

  7. Kyle Bennett on March 31, 2008 at 13:07

    Far more honest to just say, "Look: this is shitty, you're welcome to walk if you want, and I wouldn't blame you if you did, but look at the past, the possibility of the future, consider sticking with me and if you do, I'll do everything I can to make it up."

    Loyalty means knowing the answer without having to ask. "You got my back?" is not the kind of question that should be left open until the moment it is needed. Say, in a foxhole, or when your store is about to open and you need the floor manager there to run the shift, or your wife just ran out of gas and calls for you to rescue her.

    The flip side of that is the person who has offered their loyalty should let the other person know if he is withdrawing it – before it matters.

    Forbearance is more of a one-off thing, loyalty is more like forbearance as part of a relationship.

  8. Richard Nikoley on March 31, 2008 at 13:46

    "Say, in a foxhole, or when your store is about to open and you need the floor manager there to run the shift, or your wife just ran out of gas and calls for you to rescue her."

    I don't see any of those have to do with loyalty in the slightest. Each one is a relationship, which implies a two-way value exchange, the limits and parameters of such determined by the relationship.

    To put it another way, I don't see the concept of loyalty as a good replacement for the more pernicious concept of duty. No duty, no need for loyalty. Honest value exchange.

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