Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 33 of 64

“What are you talking about? Who else would pay for this?”

“You have to ask? V/DT for starters. Anyone working on a bid for MassPike, or TollPass, or FastPass, or EuroPass.”

“But we can’t sell this to just anyone, Fede!”

“Why not?”

“Jesus. Why not? Because of the Tribes.”

Fede quirked him half a smile. “Sure, the Tribes.”

“What does that mean?”

“Art, you know that stuff is four-fifths’ horseshit, right? It’s just a game. When it comes down to your personal welfare, you can’t depend on time zones. This is more job than calling, you know.”

Art squirmed and flushed. “Lots of us take this stuff seriously, Fede. It’s not just a mind-game. Doesn’t loyalty mean anything to you?”

Fede laughed nastily. “Loyalty! If you’re doing all of this out of loyalty, then why are you drawing a paycheck? Look, I’d rather that this go to Jersey. They’re basically decent sorts, and I’ve drawn a lot of pay from them over the years, but they haven’t paid for this. They wouldn’t give us a free ride, so why should we give them one? All I’m saying is, we can offer this to Jersey, of course, but they have to bid for it in a competitive marketplace. I don’t want to gouge them, just collect a fair market price for our goods.”

“You’re saying you don’t feel any fundamental loyalty to anything, Fede?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“And you’re saying that I’m a sucker for putting loyalty ahead of personal gain—after all, no one else is, right?”


“Then how did this idea become ‘ours,’ Fede? I came up with it.”

Fede lost his nasty smile. “There’s loyalty and then there’s loyalty.”


“No, really. You and I are a team. I rely on you and you rely on me. We’re loyal to something concrete—each other. The Eastern Standard Tribe is an abstraction. It’s a whole bunch of people, and neither of us like most of ’em. It’s useful and pleasant, but you can’t put your trust in institutions—otherwise you get Nazism.”

“And patriotism.”

“Blind patriotism.”

“So there’s no other kind? Just jingoism? You’re either loyal to your immediate circle of friends or you’re a deluded dupe?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying.”

“So where does informed loyalty leave off and jingoism begin? You come on all patronizing when I talk about being loyal to the Tribe, and you’re certainly not loyal to V/DT, nor are you loyal to Jersey. What greater purpose are you loyal to?”

“Well, humanity, for starters.”

“Really. What’s that when it’s at home?”


“How do you express loyalty to something as big and abstract as ‘humanity’?”

“Well, that comes down to morals, right? Not doing things that poison the world. Paying taxes. Change to panhandlers. Supporting charities.” Fede drummed his fingers on his thighs. “Not murdering or raping, you know. Being a good person. A moral person.”

“OK, that’s a good code of conduct. I’m all for not murdering and raping, and not just because it’s wrong, but because a world where the social norms include murdering and raping is a bad one for me to live in.”


“That’s the purpose of morals and loyalty, right? To create social norms that produce a world you want to live in.”

“Right! And that’s why personal loyalty is important.”

Art smiled. Trap baited and sprung. “OK. So institutional loyalty—loyalty to a Tribe or a nation—that’s not an important social norm. As far as you’re concerned, we could abandon all pretense of institutional loyalty.” Art dropped his voice. “You could go to work for the Jersey boys, sabotaging Virgin/Deutsche Telekom, just because they’re willing to pay you to do it. Nothing to do with Tribal loyalty, just a job.”

Fede looked uncomfortable, sensing the impending rhetorical headlock. He nodded cautiously.

“Which means that the Jersey boys have no reason to be loyal to you. It’s just a job. So if there were an opportunity for them to gain some personal advantage by selling you out, turning you into a patsy for them, well, they should just go ahead and do it, right?”


“Don’t worry, it’s a rhetorical question. Jersey boys sell you out. You take their fall, they benefit. If there was no institutional loyalty, that’s where you’d end up, right? That’s the social norm you want.”

“No, of course it isn’t.”

“No, of course not. You want a social norm where individuals can be disloyal to the collective, but not vice versa.”


“Yes, but loyalty is bidirectional. There’s no basis on which you may expect loyalty from an institution unless you’re loyal to it.”

“I suppose.”

“You know it. I know it. Institutional loyalty is every bit as much about informed self-interest as personal loyalty is. The Tribe takes care of me, I take care of the Tribe. We’ll negotiate a separate payment from Jersey for this—after all, this is outside of the scope of work that we’re being paid for—and we’ll split the money, down the middle. We’ll work in a residual income with Jersey, too, because, as you say, this is bigger than MassPike. It’s a genuinely good idea, and there’s enough to go around. All right?”

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