Loyalty is alive and well.
Or dead, depending on whom you ask or where you look.
It's booming in Vancouver. Fans across the globe are finding loyalty they forgot they had, cheering for their nations' athletes in the Winter Olympics.
But it's bust in the business world, according to management strategist Frederick Reichheld, author of the book The Loyalty Effect:
"On average," he wrote, "U.S. corporations now lose half their customers in five years, half their employees in four, and half their investors in less than one. We seem to face a future in which the only business relationships will be opportunistic transactions between virtual strangers."
But there's one place you'll never find a shortage of loyalty: the Boy Scouts.
"A Scout is loyal to those to whom loyalty is due." The Scout Law wording changed just last year. The rewording actually restores the original words of founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell.
That prompted a tart observation from a Fort Collins, Colo., Scouting Web site: "BSA has failed for 100 years to come up with a definition of 'loyal' understandable to an 11-year-old."
Not really. Not if you have the right teachers.
A basic principle of Scouting is that boys should learn by doing. But you can't just "do" loyalty. It's a valuable trait that must be planted like a seed and carefully cultivated.
Everyone must be loyal to something or someone. If not -- well, what are you left with? Loyalty helps shape character, as Baden-Powell well knew.
So did philosopher Josiah Royce. "Unless you can find some sort of loyalty," he wrote, "you cannot find unity and peace in your active living."
And we find it, and place it, in all kinds of people and institutions and ideas -- our family, our bosses, our government.
There's an organic quality to loyalty. It can't be produced artificially with lasting success.
In George Orwell's 1984, the iron-fisted Party extracted citizens' political loyalty by stamping out loyalty everywhere else. Marriages became antiseptic, procreative arrangements. Children were encouraged to inform on parents who harbored errant, non-state-approved thoughts.
But that's not genuine loyalty. That's fear-induced acquiescence. Loyalty grows out of respect. The right kind of loyalty begins by choosing the right people and institutions in which to invest loyalty, and upholding the concepts on which our nation was founded.
Scouting puts boys on that important path.
(In honor of Scouting's 100th birthday this year, The Chronicle will be exploring the 12 character attributes listed in The Boy Scout Law. Next week: helpful.)