The Culture of Trust and How Society Collapses without It

I picked up the telephone and dialed a small shop in a little town on the other side of the continent.  After a friendly conversation, I gave the fellow my credit card number.  A few days later, a package arrived with the item I had ordered.  Isn't that extraordinary?

At the time, I really didn't think the event was unusual.  I had engaged in transactions like that many times before.  The web makes it easy to find things.   But this really was extraordinary.  There are few places in the world where such a transaction is possible.  In the Western Hemisphere, this can happen only in the U.S. and Canada. 

Actually, I did not realize the significance of that transaction until Jordan Peterson, in one of his lectures, pointed it out.  My experience was possible only in a culture of trust.  Trust is maybe the most distinguishing feature of liberal Western culture.  (I use liberal in the libertarian sense of the paramount importance of individual sovereignty and freedom.  I don't mean to imply that political liberals are necessarily liberal in this classical sense.) 

Peterson's view of trust enlightened my thinking.  It told me what is really wrong with socialism.  I now know why all forms of socialism inevitably become the home of terror.  Koestler's Darkness at Noon had informed me of communist insanity, as did 1984.  Until Peterson, I hadn't realized that trust is impossible under any form of socialism. 

As time passed, I became friends with a number of refugees from the Soviet Union and from its satellite empire.  They confirmed every negative thing I had heard about communism.  Distilling what they told me, there was no trust in the communist world.  But there were, and are, great fear and deceit.  It was milder there after Stalin and Mao died, to be sure, but communism had so corrupted the culture that one expected lies, not truth.

Not long after the fall of the Soviet Empire, I spent some time with a management consulting firm.  This company had a contract from the Russian government to teach the Russians how to modernize their economy.  Clever people, these consultants.  They had figured out how to discover the real power structure of an organization.  The hierarchical organization chart seldom tells you what the real organization is like – who are the movers and shakers within.

Good as the consulting company was, it completely failed in its contract to properly set up Russia after the fall of communism.  The company taught the Russians how to efficiently organize.  It failed to teach the Russians the culture of trust.  The consultants simply did not realize the significance of trust.  Russia is now Gangster Russia.

Something very different happened when China opened up.   When the Chinese asked for help, we did not send them management experts.  We sent them lawyers.  It made all the difference.  China still has a gangster government, but China works, whereas Russia doesn't.  What happened?

Something akin to trust happened.  The failure to modernize the society in Russia was noted in America, and a different strategy was developed for China.  It was recognized that, for Americans to safely do business in China, Americans needed protection of their potential assets there – for their intellectual, physical, and commercial properties.  So we sent China lawyers – in particular, contract lawyers.  We also taught the Chinese the value of civil courts to effectively enforce contracts.  Painfully enforced contracts give a practical education in the need for trust.

China was successful in adopting contract law and at least some of the culture of trust.  The Chinese benefited from the prosperity that ensued.  If China backs away from trust, which it now appears to be doing, it will fail, and fail big time.

America can fail the same way.  Something quite serious is attacking America's traditional culture of trust.  It is the old paranoid Marxist disease.  Nowhere in Marx's societal prescription is trust.  His substitutes are force and hate.  The Communist Manifesto is structured on a foundation of hate and must be imposed through compulsion, through force.  Right now, compulsion, or bullying, is mostly social pressure.  We call this form of bullying political correctness – disguised hate.  The left is virulent with hate.  Varieties of this disease of lies and fear and hate have permeated important parts of America.  Some of it is even being written into law.

P.C. infests Hollywood.  Do you really want to know what Hollywood is like?  I found out by briefly working there.  Even in Hollywood, there are good people along with the many self-serving scoundrels.  However, until you find the good people, trust no one!  That is why you must have an agent and a union to protect you.

P.C. infests the university.  Do you wonder why universities are turning out so many ignorant, and indoctrinated, graduates?  Spend some time in graduate school, and you will quickly find out.  In my long ago experience there, the majority of faculty were reasonably honest.  But a substantial minority at the time were anything but.  It has since gotten much, much worse.

P.C. infests Congress.  Do you wonder why Congress has become disabled?  Trust is gone.  Many congressional politicians – particularly on the left – are no longer as good as their word.  This has become a salient characteristic of the Democratic Party.  Many Republican politicians still believe in the old, trusting congressional political culture.  The Republicans are thereby rendered nearly impotent.  Republican voters see this and are disgruntled.  Republican leaders need to see the congressional reality and stiffen up.

Boiled down to its essence, this is what "democratic socialism" is really all about: out with liberty, and in with compulsion – for the good of society, of course.  Democratic socialism is just a fancy name for transition to tyranny and darkness.  For the time being, it is just a fad among the willfully ignorant.  Probably the fad will pass.  But we will suffer from this Progressive enthusiasm for some time to come. 

The counter, of course, is knowledge.  We know the frightening reality of socialism.  Pass this understanding on.  But pass it on gently.  Adherents to political correctness are fragile souls.