Superphysics Superphysics
Part 3

Being a servant is not a natural way of making a living

by Ibn Khaldun Icon
3 minutes  • 611 words

The ruler must use the services of men, such as soldiers, policemen, and secretaries., in all the departments of political power (imarah).

For each department, he will be satisfied with men who, he knows, are adequate, and he will provide for their sustenance from the treasury. All this belongs to political power and the living made out of it. The authority of political administration extends to all these men, and the highest royal authority is the (common) source of (power for) their various branches.

Servants exist on a lower level because most of those who live in luxury are too proud to take care of their own personal needs or are unable to do so, because they were brought up accustomed to indulgence and luxury.

Therefore, they employ people who will take charge of such things for them. They give these people wages out of their own (money). This situation is not praiseworthy from the point of view of manliness, which is natural to man, since it is a sign of weakness to rely on persons (other than oneself).

It also adds to one’s duties and expenditures, and indicates a weakness and effeminacy that ought to be avoided in the interest of manliness. However, custom causes human nature to incline toward the things to which it becomes used. Man is the child of customs, not the child of his ancestors.21

Moreover, satisfactory and trustworthy servants are almost nonexistent. There are just four categories according to which a servant of this description can be classified. He may be capable of doing what he has to do, and trustworthy with regard to the things that come into his hands. Or, he may be the opposite in both respects, that is, he may be neither capable nor trustworthy.

Or, he may be the opposite in one respect only, that is, he may be capable and not trustworthy, or trustworthy and not capable.

As to the first (kind), the capable and trustworthy servant, no one would in any way be able to secure the employment of such a person. With his capability and trustworthiness, he would have no need of persons of low rank, and he would disdain to accept the wages (they could) offer for (his) service, because he could get more. Therefore, such a person is employed only by amirs who have high ranks, because the need for rank is general. 23

The second kind, the servant who is neither capable nor trustworthy, should not be employed by any intelligent person, because he will do damage to his master on both counts. On the one hand, he will cause losses to his master through his lack of ability, and on the other hand, he will defraud him and deprive him of his property. In any event, he is a liability to his master.

No one would (want, or have occasion to) employ these two kinds of servants. Thus, the only thing that remains is to employ servants of the two other kinds, servants who are trustworthy but not capable, and servants who are capable but not trustworthy.

There are two opinions among people as to which of the two kinds is preferable. Each has something in its favor. However, the capable (servant), even when he is not trustworthy, is preferable. One can be sure that he will not cause any damage, and one can arrange to be on guard as far as possible against being defrauded by him.

The servant who may cause damage, even when he isreliable, is more harmful than useful because of the damage caused by him. This should be realized and taken as the norm for finding satisfactory servants.

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