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This essay’s main theme is loyalty which will take some definition and some explanation.

Our old friend Wikipedia provides a brief definition as QUOTE “faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause.” UNQUOTE. Wikipedia also points out that there are considerable differences regarding loyalty among philosophers and others. As one might expect, therefore, there are considerable differences of opinion about a variety of aspects of loyalty. I will try to make clear just what I mean when I use the concept since misunderstanding is quite common when vaguely defined terms are employed.

The concept of loyalty has changed in common usage quite a lot over the last couple hundred years. For example, Wikipedia points out that the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1911 defined loyalty as “allegiance to the sovereign or established government of one’s country” and “personal devotion and reverence to the sovereign and royal family” which hardly exhaust the uses and meanings of the term in today’s view.

In this essay we will use a rather broader understanding of the term which will include loyalty to persons, groups, nations, causes, and many other things. We will even include loyalty to ideas such as loyalty to the Constitution of the United States or to one’s marriage vows. We will take the position of Konvitz who according to Wikipedia QUOTE “writing in the Encyclopaedia of the History of Ideas, states that the objects of loyalty encompass principles, causes, ideas, ideals, religions, ideologies, nations, governments, parties, leaders, families, friends, regions, racial groups, and indeed ‘anyone or anything to which one’s heart can become attached or devoted’”. UNQUOTE.

When attempting to decide whether loyalty is a virtue or not, one must consider the object of the loyalty. Few would consider loyalty to evil things to be a virtue. When a woman is loyal to her husband to the point of allowing that husband to physically or sexually abuse her children most people would consider that loyalty to be at best misplaced and at worst evil in itself, for example. For the purposes of this lecture, we will consider loyalty to be a virtue when the object is morally and ethically good. When the object of loyalty is ethically questionable then so too will the loyalty be questionable. Therefore if one is loyal to a nation then that loyalty is a virtue to the extent that the nation does good things and avoids doing bad things. But this is not a lecture on ethics so we can drop this point here.

That takes care of what one might be loyal to. Next, we deal with the issue of whether being loyal to thing A precludes also being loyal to thing B. Naturally the answer for us will be “that depends.” The philosophers have labels for these ideas. “Exclusionary loyalty” prohibits being loyal to other things. “Non-exclusionary loyalty” allows loyalty to other things. Thus loyalty can be “single” (that is exclusionary) or “multiple” (non-exclusionary). If one is loyal to only one thing then it is as if that thing were exclusionary whether that is the case or not. If one is loyal to several things and one or more of those loyalties is exclusionary then one has a situation of conflict. In that conflict situation we generate disloyalty from the point of view of those exclusionary loyalties.

It seems to me that whether a loyalty is exclusionary or not is an “eye of the beholder” kind of thing. That is, in most circumstances, loyalty to one thing does not interfere with loyalty to something else. Those circumstances in which there is a genuine conflict of interests, in which the situation is a zero-sum game relationship for instance, then the loyalty to A may prevent or preclude loyalty to B and vice versa.

I think this point deserves more thought. In general, what kinds of circumstances present genuine conflicts of interest? We can say that when some resource is in short supply such that there is not enough of that resource to meet the needs of two or more objects of loyalty then those interests conflict. What resources can be in short supply? First, we have time. All the people that I know of can be in only one place at a time and can only devote their attention to one thing at a time. Therefore a person’s time and attention are resources which may easily be in short supply.

The next resource which may be in short supply would be material goods. Things like land, water, and food can be inadequate to meet the needs of the population dependent upon them. In such cases, taking care of one means not taking care of another. In these situations, loyalty to A would preclude and make it impossible to be loyal to B at the same time. At this point I will, of course, bring in the nature of physical object money and its false simulation of a zero-sum game situation. Money makes people feel that the supply is so limited that the needs of all for money cannot be met. Therefore, some must suffer the lack of money so that others may meet their needs. In all money transactions using physical object money or POM as we call it, the zero-sum game relationship presents the false simulation of a conflict of interests, of divided loyalties. This perception of conflict is at the subconscious level in almost all adults and therefore produces conclusions and beliefs which generate conflict and opposition and animosity in relationships that ought to be marked by cooperation, friendship, and affection.

Finally, there are resources which are inherently limited which are of the mind only. Sports provide many such resources. Only one team can be the champion. Only one player can be the record holder. But there are other resources like that of being first born or having experience in some office or social role. Also, there are statuses such as president or head coach or director. In each of these cases loyalty must choose since only one object of loyalty can possess the resource.

We will return to this idea of exclusionary loyalty.

Loyalty can also vary on other dimensions than those already mentioned. For example, the idea of basis for loyalty is one such dimension. One can be loyal on the basis of kinship, place of birth, school attended, and even simple preference. Some loyalties are therefore imposed by convention whereas other loyalties are chosen on the basis of emotion. (“I like that team because I like those colors.”)

Loyalties can vary on the strength of the emotion. The range is great from extreme to the point of death to “just a passing fancy.” The basis for the loyalty is strongly related to the strength of the emotion. If one of the bases for the loyalty is the amount of effort expended on the behalf of the object of loyalty then the greater the effort the stronger the loyalty. Veterans who have “shared foxholes” and faced danger, privation, and hard work form emotional bonds and fierce loyalties which do extend to great personal sacrifice.

Loyalties can also be categorized on the basis of their scope. Fan loyalty to one’s professional team may entail wearing some team logo gear and some cheering but it is unlikely to go much beyond that. Loyalty to one’s children, on the other hand, may entail considerable work, effort, and sacrifice. Sometimes the scope of loyalty demanded is unlimited as in some religions or nations. Of course, loyalties with broader scope will tend to “outrank” loyalties with a narrow scope. When there is a conflict the loyalty with the broader scope will tend to win.

There are quite a few social norms associated with loyalties. Therefore a loyalty can be considered by the norms of a culture or group to be either legitimate or illegitimate. The NAZI party, for example, would consider loyalty to one’s family to be illegitimate if that loyalty conflicted with loyalty to the Party. Today, in the U.S. most people would consider such loyalty to the NAZI party to be illegitimate. This kind of feeling that other loyalties are illegitimate is also common in some religions. I have been told that those who have any other loyalty than the religion they support will burn in hell; that all other loyalties, such as to my children, must take second place.

We can categorize loyalties by how they are associated with attitudes toward those who do not share the loyalty in question. The attitude can be “if you are not for me you are against me.” Thus viewing everyone with any different loyalty to be hated, feared, and shunned. Other loyalties may simply ignore whether others share those loyalties. For example, I don’t really care whether anyone outside my family is loyal to my family. My loyalty to my family is unaffected. At the other end of the spectrum we find loyalties which are associated with concern and even affection for those with other loyalties and even those with no loyalties. Those who are loyal to charitable organizations (I picture the Salvation Army here, it being Christmas season as I write this), may care for and sacrifice for those who have no loyalty whatsoever to the organization. So the range of attitudes is from hatred through apathy to benevolence.

We will also consider one special case, nationalism or patriotism. This is selected for special treatment because it was at one time the sole meaning of the term. This loyalty is also a basis for considerable conflict within as well as between nations. If one group believes that the nation should follow course A and another group feels that the nation should follow course B then each group may consider the other group to be traitors. Civil war can be the result.

Next we deal with reciprocal loyalty. If one is loyal to the group does the group have an obligation to be loyal to the individual, as in the “Three Musketeers” “one for all and all for one”? This loyalty is felt and expected in families. If one is a “good son” or “good daughter” one expects that the family will, in return and as a matter of loyalty, provide needed support to that son or daughter. Similarly, aged parents expect their adult children to provide care when they can no longer care for themselves. But outside the family, perhaps in the Church or in the workplace, is there an expectation that the group or organization to which one gives loyalty will return that loyalty? Should the group of friends that play bridge together be loyal to the individual members of that group?

Now for some generalizations: First, loyalty is meaningless unless there is a threat or danger of some need not being met. In other words, it only has significance if there is a choice to be made for action in which the several options conflict. For example, if the object of loyalty will not be affected in any measurable way by your choice of actions, then your loyalty to that object is irrelevant, trivial, and unimportant. Loyalty is for conflicts and leads one to resolve conflicts in favor of one or another object of loyalty. Two or more objects of loyalty are compared and one is favored. So when times are tough, when there is a shortage of resources, then loyalty becomes more important. When times are good, when there is more than enough of almost everything to go around, then loyalty is unimportant. Loyalty, therefore, must to some degree be exclusionary; it must demand preference over other concerns.

Next, violating the expectations of loyalty generates considerable emotion. If you say you are going to play for your ultimate Frisbee team and then fail to show up, you will generate far more negative emotion than if you had said you would not be there from the beginning. Yes, your teammates would be disappointed but they would not feel betrayed. They would not feel deceived and attacked. As you might imagine, a Frisbee team is far less important to most people than their family, their church, their occupation, or their political party. In those organizations which put a really high value on exclusionary loyalty there may even be punishment including death for those who betray the group by being disloyal. The Catholic Church has a ritual called “excommunication” in which the individual who has been disloyal is formally and officially cut off from the Church and dooms their soul to hell. Or at least that’s my understanding.

Also, as the level of technology increases over the millennia, the number of groups, organizations, movements, ideas or ideals, and occupations also increases at an even faster rate. Imagine living in a hunting and gathering society. The group of people with whom you live is an extended family: A few women of varying ages including one old woman several sisters, and their children with a half dozen men of varying ages. The family lives on food the women gather in the surrounding territory of several square miles. As the seasons change the group may go up to the mountains in the summer and back to the coast for the winter following the plants’ production of edible nuts, seeds, and roots. The young boys hunt mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, and other small game contributing to the family fare. On occasion the men will succeed in the hunt and provide meat from larger game. Now let’s consider loyalty in this context. If one does not take care of the other members of the group then one suffers in turn because they cannot or will not care for one in return. If a hunter does not share the kill, the others will not share their food with that hunter and as all hunters know, the hunt does not always succeed but the women almost always can gather at least some food. So there is little to no temptation to not share with the others. Other small groups of human beings are relatively far away. They don’t mind visiting and occasionally trading with your group, but other than one or more of the young men going off to find a group of women that will accept that man into their group, the chance to put some other group ahead of your extended family is not likely to arise. There is only one religion which all group members accept as a matter of course. There is only one occupation and no social classes. The need for and the opportunity for loyalty to be even thought of is slight.

As the level of technology increases, the number of groups interacting with each other increases. With agriculture comes a greater division of labor. Some people are herdsmen (boys mostly). Others travel to trade. There are priests and sometimes fighters. Since towns or villages are coming to exist there now comes the opportunity for loyalty and disloyalty. Conflict between hunting and gathering groups and the villagers is possible. Different villages have different religions. The number of things that people can be loyal to has greatly increased. One is now presented with choices between things that command loyalty. In most cases the decisions are easy and obvious and convention requires the choices that you make. But for a tiny proportion of the people something happens which results in a change in loyalty. Let us examine the story of Joseph in the Bible in which Joseph is attacked by his jealous brothers and is sold into slavery by those brothers. By the grace of God and because Joseph is loyal to God, Joseph rises to high station in Egypt. He is loyal to the Pharaoh and the people of Egypt replacing his loyalty to his family in Canaan. He takes a wife and has children by her. He has new loyalties now to them. But eventually his brothers come to him to buy food in a time of famine. Joseph gives them food without demanding to be paid for that food. In this story it is interesting to note that the sources of prosperity and a station in life come from the family. If it were not for God’s intervention on behalf of Joseph, Joseph would have remained a slave and prisoner. So loyalty to the family really was hardly a matter of choice. It was only when Joseph’s brothers came to him without recognizing him, of course, that Joseph remembered his original family loyalty. Until then, he had made no efforts to seek out his family in Canaan to share with them his new wealth and power. This story shows that opportunities to be disloyal were few in those times for the common man. It was only among the wealthy and powerful that loyalty could be an issue.

We noted earlier that in the hunting-and-gathering groups there were no opportunities for loyalty since there were no groups, ideals, or religions competing for one’s loyalty. With the ordinary people of agricultural societies, one had few if any temptations to shift one’s loyalty. Women were confined within the family matrix. Men were similarly restricted in opportunities to “change sides” to serve other families or villages. Religious groups were not seeking converts like they do now. But, at the top levels in the agricultural societies among the rich and powerful, there were opportunities to pick and choose where one’s best interests could be found. If the ruler had more than one son then each son might be a center of power. If there were competing factions in the religious hierarchy, one might support one or another faction. Here we have officials whose support might be bought. Here the balance of power might be upset by a shift in loyalties. Armies have commanders whose allegiance might be bought. At this level, loyalty becomes an issue.

With the advent of industrialization we get not only a huge increase in the division of labor but also a huge increase in the number of groups and associations both public and private and a mixing of religions and political factions. In an industrial economy, every group seems to need to recruit members. Now one has many competing attractions for one’s loyalty. Should one support this or that political party? Should one be loyal to a union or to a company? Should one be loyal to this church or that church? Should one be loyal to one’s spouse or to some other, more exciting love interest? Should one support this or that ideal? These days there are many bases for loyalty, many objects with different requirements for strength of loyalty, many objects of varying scope, many different degrees of legitimacy, and many different attitudes toward other people who do not share your loyalties.

But why is loyalty important in an industrialized nation? Why is it so much more important for the common man or woman? Looking back to those previous times and different economies we can compare today’s situation with them and see patterns. First we note that loyalty is needed when there is a danger of some need not being met. Every group, every organization, every ideal and so on is in danger in an industrialized economy. The high rates of migration with industrialization bring disruption of groups. Organizations have to have money, a budget. If you use the internet you probably have been sent emails requesting a monetary contribution for some organization or other. Even ideals must be supported actively or be forgotten. There are so many groups, organizations, and ideals available to everyone that there is competition among them. Those groups and organizations which are most able to command the loyalty of their members are the most likely to survive and grow. Looking closer we find that money is involved in a high proportion of these loyalties. We have pointed out many times that money is amoral and can be taken from its owner against the will of the owner. We have shown that money relationships tend to be unstable because of the power imbalance in two-party interactions. And most important, we realize that the false simulation of a zero-sum game teaches people that everyone else can gain at their expense and the only way for one to gain is to get money from others. These consequences of the nature of money heighten the need for loyalty.

For example, if you work for company A and are considering moving to work for company B you may be restricted by an agreement you signed promising not to reveal company A’s trade secrets to company B. You are bound to be loyal to company A by that nondisclosure agreement. The need for loyalty to be present is a consequence of the competition between companies A and B. If they were not rivals working against one another, if they were on the same side, loyalty would not be necessary. So following the example of that inter-company relationship, if we find conflict, competition, rivalry, or animosity between groups or organizations or the supporters of ideals then we will find a corresponding need for loyalty for those objects of loyalty. It is the fact of people working against each other that generates the need for loyalty.

Remember those resources in short supply that spark the need for loyalty? Remember my noting that money always seems to be in short supply, even for the wealthy? So the nature of our money, the fact that our money is or represents physical objects and we treat even computerized bank accounts as if they held physical currency, that fact creates the impression in our industrial economies that we are rivals, competitors, with everyone in need of more money and with everyone trying to get money from everyone else. The nature of our POM is causing us to need and to require loyalty. But we wouldn’t need loyalty for most relationships if it were not for POM. Those hunting-and-gathering ancestors of ours did not have any use for or need for loyalty since they were not in competition for resources within the group. In agricultural societies like that of Joseph, there were few opportunities to develop loyalties because one had so few options or objects to give loyalty. Only at the top where POM was so much more important and frequently used was loyalty important. Ah, but in industrialized economies, POM is much more a part of daily life and others are far more likely to be seen as opponents, rivals, or competitors. Therefore loyalty is much more important and much more needed in industrial economies because they use POM so much. Conflict, such as that generated by POM, generates demands for loyalty.

What would an economy based on non-POM be like with respect to loyalty? I’m glad you asked. I know it’s hard to imagine living a life with little stress, with almost no dangers from other people, having everyone be on your side. So let me try describing what it might be like.

We’ll start with things close to home. If you have a spouse, that spouse is not dependent upon you for support with non-POM. If you have children they will not materially suffer from your absence. If you have aged parents, they can get along without you. If you abandon these, your family members, today, you would be considered to be disloyal to your family. But if they really don’t need you, it isn’t so bad that you leave. Yes, they’ll miss you and, if they love you, they may suffer considerable emotional distress. But they will get over your absence. On the other hand, there’s no pressure for you to leave. You don’t have to be replaced if you are not a good breadwinner or housekeeper. There’s no essential role for you to play other than just being yourself. Thus, family loyalty is not very important even though it’s very nice to have.

What about loyalty to one’s spouse. For both good mental and physical health, one should be faithful to one’s spouse. If you can’t be faithful to that person you shouldn’t marry that person. If you cannot live up to your solemn oath to God and before all those witnesses, don’t take that oath. But that’s being faithful, which is slightly different from, though closely related to, being loyal: When it comes to spousal abuse, physically or mentally attacking one’s spouse… that is a loyalty issue. If one has taken an oath and signed a contract (which is what a marriage license represents) to take care of this person, harming them violates that oath and that agreement. It is being disloyal at a fundamental level. How is the nature of our money related to that? Will a non-POM economic system fix that problem? Non-POM will not fix such problems but it will cost the abuser future income. Remember that non-POM is earned on the basis of net benefits to others which are consequences of one’s actions. If one physically injures someone whether that someone is one’s spouse or not, that resultant harm reduces the net benefits. Verbal abuse does harm that is just as meaningful as physical abuse. Therefore these harms reduce one’s income. Such harming of others is a public matter so when such harms are detected they will be public knowledge available to everyone. So if one punches one’s spouse in the face that information will be a part of one’s reputation forever. That, also, will tend to reduce spousal abuse.

Everything I just said about abusing one’s spouse applies with equal force to abuse of children.

Next we have your loyalty to your employer. Well, you have no employer with non-POM. Everyone works for themselves. No one hires you or pays you to work for them. This is non-POM, remember? You may work with a set of people who cooperate with you to produce some benefits for others but you and they are not in competition with any other person or group. In fact, everyone else hopes for your success and will help you if they can. If you leave this work group you will be expected to be responsible so as to minimize the disruption of your departure, but you will not be considered to be disloyal. It will be assumed that you have found something even better to do to help people. No one will be angered. Thus loyalty to the people with whom one works is also unnecessary. If one is undependable, if one cannot be trusted to do what they say they will do, if one lies, that also becomes part of one’s reputation concerning work. Therefore everyone has a money incentive to be dependable, to do what they say they will do, and to tell the truth as they know it. Fraud does not work with non-POM. Also, since everybody is on the same side, is working together in cooperation, there is no “other” in favor of whom one could betray those with whom one works. There are no business secrets because everyone benefits when good ideas are shared, especially the folks who came up with the good ideas.

With respect to one’s religion, non-POM supports everyone regardless of faith. Therefore whatever your religion, you will be free to practice it as you choose. Of course, if that practice harms others (such as sacrificing virgins to appease the god of the volcano) that harm will cost you future income. But that’s not specific to religious practices: that’s a general rule. On the other hand, if almost everyone views some behavior as sacrilegious or as a desecration, then that behavior will be judged as causing harm and will cost one future income. It will not matter whether that public sentiment is correct or true and such sentiments may change over time as has been the case in the U.S. with respect to women voting. When such changes in sentiment or opinion take place, the non-POM changes in what consequences earn or fail to earn non-POM. This adjustment is automatic and cannot be controlled by anyone or any organization. It will just happen. This is due to the nature of free markets which constitute the fundamental basis of non-POM. Loyalty to one’s religion will be rather painless as a consequence. Religious practices which benefit others will be rewarded. Religious practices which harm others will tend to be adjusted or modified in ways that reduce the harm since doing so will earn money.

Loyalty to one’s government or political party will be virtually eliminated as government ceases to be a significant factor. With non-POM government has no money and controls no money. One does not give money to government and one cannot get money from government. So who cares what government does? There is no law because no law is needed. The law will be irrelevant, immaterial, an anachronism which non-POM has dumped into the dust-bin of history along with sacrificing virgins to the god of the volcano.

The lack of competition, opposition, rivalry, and of people working against other people will make loyalty unimportant in most situations because it will serve no purpose; just like in the days of hunting and gathering. Being good to the people around you will become the most obvious way to benefit oneself, thus will life with non-POM be greatly improved.

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