Trust and Forced Trust

What most people fail to understand is that all working societies are based to a great degree on trust, but the type of “trust” varies from society to society, ranging from open and cooperative trust to forced trust.

In general, in authoritarian societies “trust” is based on fear and respect for power, the idea that if one doesn’t follow the rules, both those laid out in law and those enforced by those in power, those in power will either insure you follow the rules, willingly or not, or remove you from society in some fashion.

In the most democratic societies, trust is based primarily on shared values and the expectation that others will follow the rules, with a moderate policing system for those who refuse to follow the rules and a justice system to provide a check on that policing power.

Obviously, human societies cover a range between those extremes, although at present, the majority of nations tend to be either on the authoritarian side or extremely repressive authoritarian regimes.

That’s unfortunately understandable, because with the unrest and the comparatively rapid shifts in the ethnic/cultural mix within nations, large segments of the population in many nations don’t share the same values, or even the same language, and, while very few politicians or sociologists seem to want to talk about it, every language reflects and embodies a culture.

Among the reasons why the United States was initially successful was that the founding fathers shared a basic value system and language, and that those pressures also forced immigrants to adopt the English language and customs, which tended to reinforce those values, particularly in the non-slave states.

One of the seemingly unrecognized problems caused by slavery was that, in the slave-holding states, there were two conflicting value systems – the laws of the land and the values behind those laws and the absolutely authoritarian rule governing slaves, which also instilled a belief in both slaves and slave-holders that the most important value in life was not freedom, mutual trust, or cooperation, but power to compel others to obey, a mindset all too prevalent in the states of the old south.

What I see at present, both nationally and internationally, is growing distrust of those seen as “different,” combined with the absence of a desire to unite around a set of fundamental ethical/moral beliefs that the majority of people share or could share, and a growing desire to force those who are different to comply with the beliefs of those in power, while groups not in power compete to obtain power to use the government to enforce their beliefs.

And, as history so clearly shows, “forced trust” requires ever greater power and oppression to maintain itself.

4 thoughts on “Trust and Forced Trust”

  1. KevinJ says:

    > One of the seemingly unrecognized problems caused by slavery was that, in the slave-holding states, there were two conflicting value systems

    That’s a brilliant insight.

    I usually don’t comment unless I can add some insight of my own (such as it is), but in this case, I thought it was a shame such an excellent post hadn’t drawn any comments.

  2. Hanneke says:

    I agree with your point, and it reminded me of some articles I read about the building or breakdown of societal trust.
    If people have many opportunities for unforced face-to-face interactions with different people, this can help build societal trust. It’s not an automatic consequence (living on the streets among gang violence will definitely not improve trust), but there are clear correllations when looking at how people live in different countries, or different towns in the same country.

    If you live in mostly segregated neighborhoods or apartment buildings, whether by money or race, and mostly travel enclosed in a car, to work among people like yourself and shop at giant supermarkets where you don’t greet the other customers or recognise or greet the cashier, this is shown to decrease societal trust.
    Making local (outdoor or third) places where people can go for a relaxed walk or to shop, and enabling mixed density, making it possible for people to just see and greet other people from different walks of life who live around them in an unforced way, can greatly help to reduce the fear of ‘stranger danger’ and increase trust in the other people around you.

    With all the divisiveness being stoked online, taking care that the physical environment we live in facilitates that simple face-to-face contact, the daily greetings between neighbors, including giving the neighborhood kids more chances to live freely and safely in their own area and build up contacts with the other people who live there, could be really beneficial in building up the trust needed to live together as a society without too much repression.

    But the trend appears to be going the opposite way, with ever more gated communities, less walkable suburbs, more car-dominated planning, and forbidding the kind of mixed densities and local corner or high street shops that helped build a sense of community.

  3. Ronald Maurer says:

    Though he is 180 degrees opposite of Lee in politics, John Ringo’s The Last Centurion has some great points about trust in society.

  4. Your blog has become an indispensable resource for me. I’m always excited to see what new insights you have to offer. Thank you for consistently delivering top-notch content!

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