Loyalty and Responsibility

A Scenario

“I went to Barnes and Noble and couldn’t find my favorite magazine. I asked the clerk where the magazine was, and the clerk said the magazine went out of business.”

“Your favorite magazine, eh? Why didn’t you subscribe?”

“Subscribe? Are you kidding me? I have enough bills. I just read the magazine at the store.”

What is Loyalty?

To be loyal is to show a commitment or an obligation to a certain entity, organization, person, religion, etc. For example, you can show your loyalty to your parents by obeying them. You can show loyalty to a friend by keeping secrets. You can show loyalty to a business by purchasing products on a regular basis.

From the above example, the person reading the magazine is loyal to the magazine’s content, but not loyal to the magazine’s success.

Why Should You Be Loyal?

When I was in college, one of my professors brought up an example of loyalty and a local business called Kyoto Bowl. The professor asked the question, “Are you responsible for the success of Kyoto Bowl?”

The obvious answer of course is, “No. I am not.” Why should I care if the business remains closed or open?

However, what if I started eating at the restaurant on a twice a week basis? Would I then be responsible for the the restaurant’s success? Again, I would argue that the answer is no. My ten or fifteen dollars a week I place into the business is not nearly enough to pay for the business expenses that the restaurant incurs.

Could I still be loyal to the business even though I’m not directly responsible for the success of the business? Of course. I could recommend the place to my friends and wear a t-shirt advertising the business. However, if the business fails, I am not directly responsible.

Another Real-Life Example: Pirated Music

Could I be loyal to a band I like by listening to the music yet refusing to buy the band’s CD? I would argue, yes. I am responsible by law to support the artist, however. I could be loyal to the band’s music, but not loyal to the financial success of the band.

However, what if I wanted the band to produce a follow-up CD? A band typically will only release a second album if the first one is a financial success. Do I have a right to get annoyed if the band doesn’t produce a follow-up CD? Would it make a difference if I planned to pirate that one too?

Note: Just for the record, I do not pirate music.

Are You Loyal to Anything?

Here is my question for the reader: where do your loyalties lie? Do you see a big difference between loyalty and responsibility?


Loyalty is rather tricky. If you show a commitment or obligation to something, but that something doesn’t work out, was it because you weren’t loyal enough? Was it because you were loyal to the wrong things?

Perhaps it is because loyalty by itself cannot assure the success of anything. What are your thoughts?

6 thoughts on “Loyalty and Responsibility”

  1. Okay, this is an issue that I've been dealing with lately and really controversial. Take a relationship with family when they ask money for example. Love has nothing to do with loyalty. So you talk to them and advice them, that's just opportunity cost of your time, but money is a huge opportunity cost because you have weigh the loyalty vs. rate of success. I feel that I am both morally and physically responsible for this individual and therefor I should remain loyal to the degree that I allow this individual to prove me wrong otherwise. Faith is closely tied into loyalty but so is self respect.

  2. clau,

    Thanks for weighing in. One issue with loyalty that was brought up to my attention is if it is possible to be partially loyal. I plan on writing a follow-up post, but the follow-up is going to deal with mostly ways to earn loyalty.

  3. I think we see this in different lights, Ronalfy. Which is fine by me. 🙂

    Taking your examples of liking content, but not the provider, I'd say that that isn't showing any kind of loyalty at all. Or very little at the least. Instead, I'd say that the person only likes the music or the magazine. However, pirating a band's music is stealing from them. How does that show any kind of loyalty. Actually, the magazine lends itself to the same example. The content there is not provided for free (well, if you go to the library it is), but the person takes advantage of it without paying. Where is the loyalty there?

    As for the restaurant, I think you give a single person too little credit. Besides buying food from Kyoto bowl, others saw you giving your business to the restaurant. Just by being there, you may have encouraged more business. Granted, a restaurant isn't going to live or die by one person's business. However, if you have a negative experience (or a good one) and start a grassroots campaign to take down a business (or support it), you could effectively start a chain reaction that would destroy a business (or keep it alive). Again, not by yourself, but a single person could be the catalyst.


  4. Double post! Eh, good thing this isn't the forum. 🙂

    I spent a bit more time thinking about this topic this morning and thought I'd add a few thoughts. 🙂

    In this capitalistic society we live in, loyalty tends to be shown through monetary support (put your money where your mouth is, so to speak). That isn't always the case, though. An indie band that is just getting its start may have free concerts and your mere presence shows your loyalty. At that point, though, you could also make the argument that one person could have a huge positive or negative impact on the success of the band. Going back to the money idea, if you just sat in Kyoto Bowl without buying any food, would that be considered loyalty? Probably not, and the manager would probably ask you to leave. I recall spending a lot of time in Books a Million back in Texas. I read through plenty of books while I was there, but didn't buy many. Truthfully, I just abused the opportunity BAM allowed me to browse their wares. No loyalty there (although I did have their loyalty card, but that was just for the coffee…).

    Now, take patriotism and family. In those cases, I don't think money has anything to do with loyalty (although it could be shown through money sometimes). Patriotism isn't measured by how much "Made in America" you buy (well, some people might). And showing loyalty to a family member might involved supporting them financially, or maybe it would be better to withhold that support. It depends on the situation.


  5. Interesting point: being loyal to something compared to being loyal to the success of something. I think we can be loyal to businesses in order to keep them running. This would work well in cases where a family or a local business is involved, which without local community support would die. Now, just because a business is going to go under, should we support it? Are we supporting local businesses because they are local or because we know what will or will not happen to the people who run that business should the business go down?

    Also, regarding loyalty and family: you should see what your feelings are. Some people feel obligated to their families, while others feel that loyalty to a certain concept is more important than human connection. What do you think? The answer to that question is what you can try to do, as every situation is different and depends its own analysis instead of a general theme that can be applied to everything.

    Me; I am more loyal to lives than any human-made concept.

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