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How the Education System Destroys Social Networks – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

How the Education System Destroys Social Networks – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker

I was at a restaurant for lunch and had time to visit with the waitress, who turns out to be a college graduate from a good institution. She has a degree in European languages. Here she is waiting tables with nondegreed people, some five years her junior, some 10 years her elder.

She is making good money, but so are her co-workers. You have to wonder: given her position, what was the professional advantage to her of those four hard years in school and the $100K spent on them? What were the opportunity costs?

This is not another article to disparage the value of a college degree. I would like to raise a more fundamental question. It concerns the strange way in which our education system has overly segmented our lives into a series of episodic upheavals, each of which has little to do with the other, the value of one accomplishment being oddly disconnected from the next stage, and none of them directly connecting to our professional goals except in the unusual case.

From the earliest age until adulthood, we’ve been hurled from institution to institution in a way that eventually sets young people back from developing continuity of plans and a social support system to realize their goals. At the end of it all, people find themselves back where they started: figuring out their market worth and trying to find a buyer for their services.

Instead of drawing down on accumulated capital, they end up starting fresh at age 22. Even after years of building social capital, they are drawing down on a nearly empty account.

There is something seriously wrong with this system. Shouldn’t our investments in our friendship networks extend across and beyond the stages of our development to make more of a difference in our lives?

The post-graduation diaspora

In a couple of months, for example, many millions of high school students will graduate. Celebration! Sort of. It’s great to finish school. But what’s next?

Many students find themselves devastated to lose the only social group and friendship network they’ve ever known. They worked for years to cultivate it, and in an instant, it is blown apart. They are left with a piece of paper, a yearbook of memories, a transcript, and, perhaps a few recommendation letters from teachers — recommendations that do them little good in the marketplace.

“Don’t ever change,” they write in each other’s yearbooks. The sentiment expresses a normal longing to hold on to the investment the students make in each other’s lives, even as everything about the system tries to take that investment from them.

Is this the way it should be?

Then, the same group, or at least many among them, look forward to college, where they are mostly, again, starting from scratch in a social sense. It can be very scary. College students begin their new experience isolated. They work for another four years to develop a network — a robust social group — to find their footing and to establish both a reputation and sense of self. This is the only world they’ve known for years, and they have invested their hearts and souls into the experience.

The social fabric ends up rich and wonderful, with intense friendships based on shared lives.

Finally, after four years, the graduation march plays, the tassel is moved from one side of the cap to the other, and the whole social apparatus goes up in smoke — again. Then, another diaspora.

Once again, students find themselves nearly alone, with few hooks into the world of commerce and employment. They have a degree but few opportunities to monetize it. Their social network is of limited use to them. All they have, yet again, is a piece of paper. Plus they have recommendation letters from professors that still do them little good in the marketplace.

This not always the case. There are workarounds, and digital networking is helping. People join fraternities and social clubs, and those can be useful going forward. But it might take years for these connections to yield results. The more immediate question is this: What do I do now? Lacking a broad sense of the way the world works, and missing any influential hooks into prevailing networks, a college grad can often find herself feeling isolated once again, starting over for the third time.

The failure of the central plan

This is the system that the civic culture has created for us. For the years from the ages of 14 through 22, students’ primary focus of personal investment and social capital building is centered on their peers. But their peers are just the same as they are: hoping for a good future but having few means to get from here to there.

Why does this keep happening? Looking at the big picture, you can start to see a serious problem with the educational system politicians have built for us. It is keeping people “on track” — but is it a track that prepares people for the future?

A core principle of the education system, as owned and controlled by government, is Stay in school and stay with your class. This is the emphasis from the earliest grades all the way through the end of college. The accidents of birth determine your peer group, your primary social influences, and the gang you rely on for social support.

To be “held back” is considered disgraceful, and to be pushed forward a grade is considered dangerous for personal development. Your class rank is your world, the definition of who you are — and it stays with you for decades. Everyone is on a track as defined by a ruling class: here is what you should and must know when. All your peers are with you.

Many factors entrench this reality. The public school system is organized on the assumption of homogeneity, a central plan imposed from the top down. It didn’t happen all at once. It came about slowly over the course of 100-plus years, from the universalization of compulsory schooling, to the prohibition of youth work, to the gradual nationalization of curricula.

In the end, we find the lives of young people strictly segmented by stages that are strangely discontinuous. Where are the professional contacts that result? Where are the friends who can smooth your way into the world of professional work? They aren’t among your former classmates. Your peers are all in the same position you are in.

Laws that lock people out

The workplace might help to mitigate this problem, but it’s incredibly difficult for young people to get a regular job thanks to “child labor” laws that exclude teens from the workforce. For this reason, only one in four high school kids has any real experience outside their peer group. They miss all the opportunities to learn and grow that come from the workplace — learning from examples of personal initiative, responsibility, independence, and accountability.

There are extremely narrow conditions under which a 14-year-old can find legal employment, but few businesses want to bother with the necessary documentation and restrictions. A 16-year-old has a few more opportunities, but, even here, these young people can’t work in kitchens or serve alcohol. The full freedom to engage a larger community outside the segmented class structure doesn’t come until after you graduate high school.

By the time the opportunity comes around to do authentic remunerative work, a student’s life is filled with other interests, mostly social, but also extracurricular. Instead of working a job, people are doing a thousand other things, and there seems to be no time left. It’s not uncommon for people to graduate with no professional experiences whatsoever to draw on. Their peers are their only asset, their only really valuable relationships, but these relationships have little commercial value.

How natural is any of this?

If you look at the social structure of homeschooling co-ops, for example, younger kids and older kids mix it up in integrated social environments, and they learn from each other. Parents of all ages are well integrated too, and it creates a complex social environment. The parents know all the kids and, together, they form a diverse microsociety of mutual interests. This is one reason that homeschooled kids can seem remarkably precocious and poised around people of all ages. They are not being artificially pegged into slots and held there against their will.

A better way

When you read about the experiences of successful people in the late 19th century, they talk of their exciting and broad experiences in life, working in odd jobs, meeting strange people of all ages and classes, performing tasks outside their comfort zone, encountering adult situations in business that taught them important lessons. They didn’t learn these things from sitting in a desk, listening to a teacher, repeating facts on tests, and staying with their class. They discovered the world through mixing it up, having fabulous and sometimes weird experiences, being with people who are not in their age cohort. They drew on these experiences for years following.

The system to which we have become accustomed is not of our choosing, and it certainly isn’t organic to the social order. It has been inflicted on us, one piece of legislation at a time. It is the result of an imposed, rather than evolved, order. Why wait until age 22 to get serious about your life?  Why stick with only one career choice in the course of your appointed 40 years in professional life? Why retire at the young age of 65, just because the federal government wants you to do so?

Think about this the next time you attend a graduation. Are the students shedding only tears of joy? Or, in the sudden mixture of emotions, is there also the dawning realization that they are witnessing the destruction of a social order they worked so hard to cultivate? Are they also overwhelmed with the knowledge that, in short order, they will have to recreate something entirely new again? Where is the continuity? Where is the evidence of an evolved and developing order of improved opportunities?

The most important question is this: What are the alternatives?

Bring back apprenticeships. Bring back remunerative work for the young. Look beyond the central plan, and don’t get trapped. Rethink the claim that staying in school is an unmitigated good. Find other ways to prevent your heavy investments in others from dissipating; ensure instead that they will pay more immediate returns. Our friends should remain in our lives — and yield a lifetime of returns.

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of the startup Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Don’t Lose Friendships Over Politics – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Don’t Lose Friendships Over Politics – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker

Has election season always been this rough on friendships?

So many people I know are getting into Facebook fights, Twitter wars, Instagram arguments, and Snapchat squabbles. What begins as an ideological dispute ends in bitterness. People are provoking others, demanding those who do or don’t support their candidate leave their networks, cutting ties with friends and family, and all because of political differences.

I can’t even imagine what the Thanksgiving table will be like this year!

People perceive the stakes this year to be that high. To be sure, political philosophy does matter and does carry high stakes. However, the partisan struggle for the control of the state apparatus by this or that temporary manager doesn’t matter as much as election season seems to suggest. You might be being manipulated, and friendships and families are actually too precious to throw away for transient reasons.

It’s a pity to cause permanent rifts, and so unnecessary. The people who rearrange their personal relationships for the election imagine that they are taking control of their lives. They don’t seem to realize that they are actually letting strangers control their lives – strangers who care nothing for them in a system that actually seeks to divide people so it can conquer them. To permit politics to fundamentally alter something so important as friendship is to give politicians more importance than they deserve.

Trolling and Banning

Now, of course there is a proviso here. If there is someone in your network who is deliberately trolling you, harassing you, and goading you to respond, the best possible response is to block them. Not talk back. Not engage in a tit for tat. Just quietly block, without drama or announcement, much less denunciation.

Most public people I know have blocked as many as one hundred plus people over the past year, simply because this election season has been so contentious, with the alt-right and alt-left (who oddly agree on so much) battling it out on social media. Blocking is the far better path than engaging them. Vicious back and forths on the Internet can be life-consuming and draining. People who are trying to do that to you deserve exclusion from your conversation circle.

Apart from these cases, it strikes me as pointless to hurl someone out of your life because of political differences.

First, by denying yourself access to different points of view, you risk isolating yourself from a critic who might teach you something you need to know, maybe about anything in life, but maybe even about politics.

Second, talking to people with different opinions keeps you making sense and speaking in a civil way, addressing others in a way that could persuade them.

Third, and most critically, to isolate yourself, hate others for their views, and regard people with different points of view as less deserving of dignified treatment, plays into exactly what the political system wants for you to do.

But Aren’t They Aggressors?

A counter to my point was offered by a friend of mine last year. Speaking as a libertarian, he said, he regards anyone who supports some government action – even just casually and without much thought – as wittingly or unwittingly contributing to an opinion culture that supports rising political violence. The only friends he believes deserve the time of day from him must hold steadfastly to his voluntarist perspective, else he regards them as a direct threat to his life and liberty.

Now, this strikes me as vastly too severe. The truth is that most people who support some government action do not regard themselves as violent people. They believe that they are favoring something that is good for others, perhaps fostering the better life for the community.

For example, if a person favors higher spending on public education, they believe that they are pushing for policies that are good for others, not calling for violence against taxpayers to support unworkable programs. How can you possibly persuade them otherwise if you cut off all ties?

And it’s not just libertarians who can be this way. A good friend of mine was a casual lefty and, like most from his tribe, he was dead serious about the issue of climate change. I had no idea until the subject came up over coffee. I expressed some doubt that the science was truly settled concerning all causes and effects, solutions, costs and benefits, and so on. I was actually very measured in my comments, but somehow they caused him to blow up, call me a science-denying, tin-foil-hat-wearing capitalist apologist, and then actually leave the conversation. And that was it.

I was stunned. I was merely disagreeing with him, however cautiously. But somehow, he had come to believe that anyone who disagreed with him bears some responsibility for the rising sea levels, the melting of the polar ice caps, and the gradual disintegration of the planet, even though I’ve written very little on the topic at all.

He was letting politics control his life and even determine his friendships. Both of us are spiritually poorer as a result of this friendship loss.

And consider the toxic effect the rising politics of personal identity – on the left and the right – are having on the ability of people to find value in each other. Imagine how you would make me feel if you believed my whiteness represents a continuing stain on the world order. There is no chance for any kind of engagement; after all, I cannot change my race. Or what if I believe your blackness or gayness or atheism or whatever is leading to demographic or cultural destruction – how can we possibly be civil to each other? The politics of identity is causing precisely these sorts of irrational and pointless splits among us.

What Is the Point of Friendship?

What the libertarian and the lefty I mentioned above do not realize is that they are guilty of the same error of allowing politics to invade the conduct of their lives and determine the conditions of their personal happiness. Once this kind of thing starts, there is truly no end to it.

Must everyone agree with you on every jot and tittle of your ideology to be your friend? Must there be zero tolerance for even the slightest difference in outlook, priority, application, and goal of your particular political outlook? In other words, must all your friends believe exactly as you believe?

If this is your perspective, you might consider: there is not much point to being friends and engaging in conversation with someone who has the exact same view on all things that you have. It seems rather boring. Might as well stay home and reflect on your own infallibility.

I like to think of friendship much the way we think of economic exchange. In economics, goods and services do not exchange in the presence of perfect sameness. They exchange because each party to the exchange believes himself or herself will be better off than he or she was before the exchange. It is only in the presence of unequal expectations that exchange becomes mutually rewarding.

It is the same with friendship. We need to hear different points of view. We need the insights of others. Even if we don’t accept them in total, we can still hope to understand people and the world better by considering what others have to say – with sincerity, warmth, and honesty. In other words, friendships like this help us have an open mind and keep us all humble and teachable.

Candidates Will Betray You

Neither is it a good idea to give up a friendship based on loyalty to a particular candidate. The top two contenders for the presidency have held many different and conflicting views on a huge range of political issues, from taxation to immigration to war. These people are wired to be adaptable based on the polls. To follow one or the other all the way to the point that it affects your associations is to risk compromising your own intellectual integrity.

Neither is worth that.

One of the great tragedies of politics is that it can take people who in real life would be peaceful and loyal and loving friends and turn them into bitter enemies. I’m always struck by this when I see a political rally, with face offs between backers and protesters. What exactly is gained by this? If you put these same people in a shopping mall or movie theater or restaurant, they would have every reason to get along and no reason to be screaming obscenities at each other.

We should hold on to that realization. Each of us is a human being with feelings, hopes, dreams, and a vision of a life well-lived – every single person, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or ideology. Politics should change nothing about that.

If we long for a better world of mutual understanding and peace, one way to help achieve it is to live as if it already exists. Above all, that means never letting politics get in the way of rewarding human relationships.

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of the startup Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

The Injustices of Collectivism in E. M. Forster’s “A Passage to India” (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

The Injustices of Collectivism in E. M. Forster’s “A Passage to India” (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 29, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2003 and published in three parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay received over 2,500 views on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 29, 2014


The great Voltaire once wrote, “If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.” Indeed, an absurdity accountable for a gargantuan share of the brutal injustices inflicted upon people in all times and settings is the fallacy of collectivism.

How Collectivist Attitudes Harm the Best Individuals


E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India illustrates the inhibitive nature of collectivism to aspiring individuals. During the peak of Anglo-Indian sentiment against Aziz due to the false accusation of his assault on Miss Quested, the anger of the collectivist elite of Chandrapore shifts from direct indignation at Miss Quested’s violation to a vague but intense loathing of Indian natives in general. This further instills in Aziz’s accusers the perception that Aziz, a native of India, must be a tainted man because of his race.

Aziz’s friend Cyril Fielding must confront this sentiment in his attempts to ascertain the truth. “[Fielding] had not rallied to the banner of race. He was still after facts, though the herd had decided on emotion… Pity, wrath, heroism, filled then, but the power of putting two and two together was annihilated” (183).

Indeed, the irrationality of collectivist perception had caused Aziz’s accusers to spontaneously forget the man’s immense generosity and the extent of personal debt which he was willing to undergo to arrange the grandiose picnic on which he had invited Mrs. Moore and Miss Quested. Aziz’s intellect, personality, and companionship are ignored in favor of the stereotype of the dark-skinned “monster” with an “inherent affinity for fairer-skinned women” (as states a principal argument presented against him in court).

Yet not only Aziz is hindered by this stigma, but rather all Indians of an educated and intellectual background. Even the intelligent and philosophical District Superintendent McBryde is impelled by a collectivist mindset to state that “all unfortunate natives are criminals at heart, for the simple reason that they live south of latitude 30” (184). McBryde, although not possessed by as intense a loathing for Aziz as others of his countrymen, nevertheless hesitates to grant Fielding the necessary access to the facts of the situation which held the potential of exonerating Aziz, including an interview with Miss Quested.

But by far the most grievous insult to the autonomy and dignity of intelligent Indian individuals is a general sentiment uttered to Mr. Turton in the Chandrapore British Club. “Any native who plays polo is all right. What you’ve got to stamp on is these educated classes, and, mind, I do know what I’m talking about this time” (205).

To the collectivist snob, a stereotypically designated inferior is of no inconvenience so long as he compliantly acknowledges his own inferiority. This is also witnessed in the caste system of India, where, so long as one performs his assigned “duty,” one’s subordinate status is not employed as a vehicle for one’s further plummet into the abyss of humiliation. To perform one’s own duty poorly is thought superior to performing another’s duty well. But those who pursue, through education and interaction with the educated, their own elevation and the improvement of their minds and lives are anathema to a collectivist establishment. They are, to the collectivist, anomalies. They violate his primitive generalizations concerning persons of a particular caste and race. Hence, they must be coercively pressed back down into the preconceived framework of institutionalized hierarchy.

Collectivism’s Destruction of a Friendship


Among the principal aspects of the collectivist mindset is the judging of an individual on the basis of his perceived membership in an often circumstantial and artificially constructed group: a race, nation, or class. While in reality there exist only unique individuals with their own personalities, aspirations, accomplishments, skills, and knowledge, the collectivist mindset disregards all that and instead seeks to portray each individual as just one member of some homogeneous “greater whole.”

Collectivism is profoundly antithetical to the formation and preservation of friendships, especially among individuals perceived by the collectivists as belonging to distinct “groups.”

In A Passage to India, collectivism’s destructive effect on friendships can be observed. Cyril Fielding and Dr. Aziz maintain a strong friendship prior to the unjust accusation and trial of Aziz for an assault he did not commit. But collectivism tears their friendship apart. Despite Fielding’s courageous stance in favor of Aziz during the latter’s trial, Aziz gradually drifts away from his friend due to the mutual antagonism present between the British and Indian camps, each orienting itself against the other based on a collectivist perception.

When Fielding returns to India after a sojourn in England and eagerly writes letters to his old friend, Aziz even refuses to read them and hopes that the incessant rains will derail Fielding’s arrival. Despite a momentary reconciliation, a statement in a subsequent conversation between Aziz and Fielding reveals the ethnic collectivism of Aziz that has torn a rift between their friendship: “We shall drive every blasted Englishman into the sea, and then… and then… we shall be friends.” (362)

This is a brazen confession that irrational lumping of Fielding in with the Chandrapore elite that had assailed Aziz in court, as well as Aziz’s general and unfounded loathing for Englishmen and Westerners per se (not merely the fact of the occupation), will indefinitely preclude him from connecting with Fielding as an individual, despite their mutual respect for each other’s personalities and Fielding’s dauntless prior attempts to defend Aziz for the sake of objective, non-collectivist justice. Aziz is compelled by his bigoted sociocultural milieu (the group of fanatics, who, after the trial, had nearly demolished Chandrapore’s hospital), as well as by his own tendency to submit to popular prejudices, to reject one of the most productive relationships in his life.

A Passage to India insightfully demonstrates that collectivism is not a mere one-sided phenomenon. In most “group conflicts,” extensive and bigoted collectivism is displayed on both sides — as was the case among many British and Indians in the novel. The best people are caught in the crossfire, forced to abandon cherished relationships as a result of others’ superstitions and violent hatreds.

Demonstrations of Collectivism’s Inherent Violence


Collectivist attitudes inevitably lead to violence, because collectivism openly flouts the possibility of rational discussion, civil interaction, and mutually-reinforcing friendships among people who are thought to belong to distinct “groups.”

A Passage to India demonstrates such acts of collectivist upheaval. Following Dr. Aziz’s trial, the jubilant crowd of natives celebrating his victory re-channels its sentiment from one of celebration to one of spiteful vengeance. The natives march on the city hospital and prepare to demolish it. “The new injury lashed the crowd to fury. It had been aimless hitherto, and had lacked a grievance. When they reached the Maidan and saw the sallow arcades of the Minto they shambled towards it howling. It was near midday. The earth and sky were insanely ugly, the spirit of evil again strode abroad” (262).

Only the emergence of the Nawab Bahadur’s grandson in a recovering condition quells the crowd’s fury. However, what is used as the pretext for the march is not its cause. The crowd seeks a means to lash back at “those bigoted Englishmen,” which, as the text indicates, would fulfill the aim that they are deliberately awaiting.

The mob desires to avenge Aziz’s disdainfully collectivist treatment at the hands of his accusers with an even more brute and savage variant of collectivism. Aziz’s exoneration and the delivery of justice do not in themselves satisfy the collectivist crowd. To the collectivist, antagonism with his rivals is irreconcilable, and each particular incident is merely a spark to light a heap of firewood gathered over an extensive period of time. Hence, the collectivist does not rest when genuine threats to his welfare are eliminated. He desires to partake in hostility, and a victory merely places him on the offensive. Hence, both in reality and in fiction that profoundly analyzes the human psyche, collectivism, criminality, and social tumult are inherently linked.

But A Passage to India also contains examples of courageous individuals who resist the collectivist temptation and, through their courage, prevent further acts of vicious and unjustified violence from occurring. Miss Adela Quested, for instance, defies the expectations of her community in order to proclaim Aziz’s innocence in court and thereby fully exonerate him, while Cyril Fielding plays an integral part in the orchestration of Aziz’s defense and the gathering of evidence that would dispel suppositions of Aziz’s guilt. Both Miss Quested and Fielding are able to see past the superficial categories of race and nationality and defend an individual for what he truly is, an innocent, upright, and virtuous human being.

Lessons in Friendship from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Lessons in Friendship from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 28, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 12,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 28, 2014


Hamlet, the protagonist of William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, faces a colossal burden with respect to both the physical reality of his father’s assassination by his uncle and the mental conflicts entailed in deliberating over an adequate response to this situation. Immersed in such a doubly tumultuous struggle, Hamlet searches for guidance and companionship in another individual. The foremost qualities that Hamlet seeks and finds in the person of Horatio are his clear and independent judgment, his loyalty to the interests and well-being of Hamlet, and, as Hamlet’s death draws near, his role as the reliable transmitter of Hamlet’s story and legacy. Hamlet’s recognition of these attributes of Horatio enables him to maintain a sincere, profound friendship that becomes fortified with the passage of time.

Unlike virtually everyone surrounding Hamlet in the royal court of Denmark, including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, complete lackeys to the king, Polonius, who flatters Hamlet even for the latter’s deliberately mad utterances, and Ophelia, who is easily swayed by her father and Claudius to serve in their ploy to spy on Hamlet, Horatio maintains a persistent autonomy of judgment, expressing his thoughts even when they conflict with Hamlet’s, but always constructively. Horatio’s willingness to question those of Hamlet’s decisions that he considers rash is demonstrated when, upon the arrival of the ghost of Hamlet’s father, he seeks to dissuade Hamlet from following it, stating, “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord?/ Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff/…/And there assume some horrible form/ Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason…” (1.4.77-78,80-81).

Horatio’s friendship with Hamlet extends sufficiently far that, in his genuine concern for Hamlet’s safety, Horatio is willing to rebuke and point out the possible consequences of what he regards as Hamlet’s rasher actions. Hamlet indeed recognizes the value, objectivity, and validity of Horatio’s judgment when he calls him “as just a man/ As e’er my conversation coped withal” (3.2.56-57). Shortly after these words of praise, Hamlet selects none other than Horatio to observe Claudius’s reactions to the performance before them and act as an independent party verifying the king’s guilt in his predecessor’s murder on the basis of his response. Indeed, Horatio’s confirmation of Hamlet’s suspicion is integral for Shakespeare to even convey the certainty of Claudius’s guilt to the reader, who might have up to that point questioned the reliability of Hamlet’s perceptions and personal conjectures on this subject. Even more importantly, Hamlet himself had beforehand doubted Claudius’s culpability, stating, “The spirit I have seen/ May be a devil…” (2.2.627-8) and thereby questioning the validity of the accusation leveled against Claudius by the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

However, once Horatio conducts his independent observations, which Hamlet knows to have been formed without an inclination to automatically favor the prince’s interpretation, there is no longer any ambiguity in Hamlet’s mind on this matter. As the play progresses, Horatio’s judgments begin to assume even greater significance. Horatio attempts to dissuade Hamlet from accepting the king’s offer for him to duel with Laertes, and perceptively informs the prince, “You will lose, my lord” (5.2.223). Horatio senses that Claudius has laid a trap for Hamlet and urges that the prince’s mind overcome the rashness of his passions and rethink his rush into death, stating, “If your mind dislike anything, obey it” (5.2.231). Though Hamlet disobeys Horatio’s advice, Shakespeare uses the very presence of these warnings to suggest that Horatio’s voice of reason is an element immensely important and friendly to Hamlet’s interests. Indeed, had Hamlet heeded Horatio’s words of caution, he might have lived.

The purpose toward which Horatio uses his judgment, his staunch personal loyalty to Hamlet’s well-being, is an equally crucial component of the relationship between the two. So great is this devotion that Horatio becomes Hamlet’s confidant with regard to Hamlet’s suspicions of Claudius’s guilt. Before any member of the court has any evidence of the king’s murderous nature, Horatio is nevertheless willing to grant Hamlet’s plan a fair trial, and Hamlet trusts Horatio not to reveal his immensely dangerous secret to anyone else.

This trust is warranted, as Horatio is willing to go as far as to assert personal responsibility for the outcome of Hamlet’s plan, stating of the king, “If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing/ And ‘scape detecting, I will pay the theft” (3.2.94-5). From that moment on, Horatio plays a prominent role in Hamlet’s designs against Claudius. Upon Hamlet’s escape from the vessel destined to bring him to England and to his death, he sends a lengthy private letter to Horatio, explaining the events causing his return to Denmark and signed, “He that thou knowest thine” (4.6.30), indicating Hamlet’s reciprocation of Horatio’s loyalty. The letter contains details and clandestine designs that would be unsuited for the eyes of Claudius, who, in contrast to Horatio, receives an extremely brief letter merely indicating Hamlet’s forthcoming return. Once again, Hamlet can rely on Horatio not only to keep his secret, but to arrive promptly at Hamlet’s side as well.

Shakespeare uses the events of the play to confirm Hamlet’s evaluation of Horatio’s character, as, indeed, the reader finds the two of them in each other’s company at the opening of the fifth act. Horatio’s steadfast adherence to Hamlet’s interests is a stark contrast to the attitudes Hamlet observes in others of the Danish court. Polonius may flatter Hamlet for the latter’s every whimsical expression, yet does so not genuinely, undertaking such conduct merely because praising a prince to his face is expected from a servant of royalty. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are willing to betray a childhood friendship with Hamlet in order to heed Claudius’s request to spy on him.

Even Hamlet’s beloved, Ophelia, does not display toward him the genuine loyalty he desires, willing to repel Hamlet’s letters and deny him the ability to visit her due to a mere command from her father. Only Horatio disallows such motives as expediency, favor-seeking, the desire to flatter, and obedience to the dictates of others from interfering with his genuine and principled adherence to the welfare of his friend. Hamlet, skilled in the contemplation of abstract principles, recognizes one such principle, loyalty, as consistently applied by Horatio, and thus gravitates toward a friendship with him. So immense is Horatio’s devotion to Hamlet at the end of the play that he contemplates drinking from a poisoned cup, calling himself “more an antique Roman than a Dane” (5.2.374), thereby indicating that his life’s meaning has been antiquated since he would no longer be able to exercise his primary moral purpose of loyalty to Hamlet due to the latter’s imminent death.

Yet Hamlet has other designs for Horatio’s life, and urges his friend to live on and perpetuate his devotion to the prince by serving as a reliable transmitter of Hamlet’s story and legacy. Hamlet appeals to the motive of loyalty when he instructs Horatio, “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,/ Absent thee from felicity awhile/ And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain/ To tell my story” (5.2.381-4). Though the possibility of Horatio’s death is immensely undesirable to Hamlet, as it would leave behind the prince’s tarnished name and unexplained deeds, Hamlet does expect Horatio to forgo worldly pleasures and bear the burden of accounting for the prince’s motives and mistakes. This is a task Hamlet admits to be uncomfortable, but a necessary extrapolation upon the bond of friendship established between Hamlet and Horatio during the prince’s life.

Hamlet’s selection of Horatio for this undertaking also reinforces his confidence in Horatio’s objectivity and clarity in relating events as they happened, and Shakespeare himself uses these events to sway readers toward a concordant judgment. After all, Horatio is the sole man remaining to convey an accurate account of the happenings constituting the play. Since, through the play, readers indeed receive such an account, they are left to conclude that Horatio performed his job in accordance with Hamlet’s expectations. Moreover, Horatio acts not only to reveal and perpetuate the memory of Hamlet’s past, but also to implement Hamlet’s wishes to affect the future. Horatio agrees to fulfill Hamlet’s request to sponsor Fortinbras for the Danish succession and predicts the effect of such advocacy when he states that Hamlet’s “voice will draw on/ more” (5.2.435-436), inspiring the living to support Fortinbras as well. Even in death, Hamlet’s plans, values, and ideas continue to exert a real political influence due to the efforts of his steadfast friend in promoting them.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet suggests that, when there are no more favors to seek and no more momentary advantages to elicit, remaining by a person’s side is the true test of friendship, a test that Horatio passes with flying colors, as one cannot gain favors and advantages from a dead man. Hamlet rightfully recognizes the virtues of Horatio’s independent judgment and loyalty, and, paradoxically, maintains a bond with him in death even stronger than the one they had in life. While living, Hamlet twice disobeys Horatio’s advice as he follows the ghost and, later, commits the fatal error of accepting the proposal to duel with Laertes. However, during his last minutes, Hamlet demonstrates his complete trust of Horatio by investing him with the responsibility of transmitting his story through the ages, without any further oversight or objection from the prince. What stronger confidence in a friend can ever be manifested than this?