19 April, 2007

Loyalty, competence and the good of the state

It is clear that the Bush administration values loyalty over competence. After all, an incompetent but loyal person has multiple benefits. They won't point out the aspects of your regime that are detrimental to the state because they a) don't know better, and/or b) should they know better they are loyal enough to keep their mouths shut. They also make convenient scapegoats, working in such a regime, one is bound to acquire some complicity especially if one is not competent enough to realise it. However, loyalty is not all its cracked up to be. Take the example of Yuan Shao (all from the novel for the purposes of making this point). Yuan Shao had many advisors who were loyal to him. Shen Pei being the most dramatic example of facing North to join his lord after his lord, his lord's family and any power left was utterly decimated. Shen Pei also agreed with Yuan Shao's disastrous plan to attack Cao Cao despite lack of preparation (hmm... sounds familiar), Shen Pei also worked to silence all critics of the plan (eerily familiar) leading to Tian Feng's imprisonment. Shen Pei exhibited outward loyalty, but his incompetent advice led to Yuan Shao and his state's destruction making that loyalty utterly useless. What good is there, to pledge allegiance to a regime while enacting policies that destroy it? Is not the more loyal approach to investigate the situation and if a solution cannot be found, to recommend persons who can solve it? What good is an exiled ruler with many loyal followers when there is no longer a state to rule? I think loyalty to a regime rests in benefitting the state. When the state prospers, the ruler prospers with it. Therefore, the loyal approach is to make the state strong, this makes the ruler strong. It is a duty to disagree with policies, therefore, that weaken the state. It is a duty of the servant to not slander competent opponents when their work benefits the state. Otherwise you get Shen Pei, facing North, pledging allegiance to a past memory, to a ruler without power, to a state in ruin.

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