Trust, Cooperation and Justice Necessary For Free Society

A Guest Post from someone who wants to be known only as “Bastiat” deals with the importance of trust in a free society. Without trust, it is questionable whether freedom can exist or on what basis. When trust disappears or even declines, it implies a society vastly different from what we are used to. 

What holds a society together?

In these troubling times, it is a question worth asking. While society is an unknowable and complex abstract, I think there is a very simple and very useful two-part answer to this question:

  1. The division of labor
  2. Trust

The division of labor should make intuitive sense. Rather than all of us learning to make our own shoes, bake our own bread, grow our own food and sew our own clothes we are all better off if we specialize and trade. That way, we tend to do what we each do best increasing the productivity of society. As a result there is a a higher quality of more goods available. Clearly, we’re all better off if we specialize and trade. This benefit encourages social cooperation among individuals.

Trust is the tricky one.

The division of labor only works when there is exchange. And to enter into exchange, especially complex exchange, you’ve got to trust that the other person will hold up his end of the bargain. You’re also got to have confidence that the rules of the game won’t change as you are playing it. As far as possible you want to know the risks and manage them. Against The Gods is an excellent and entertaining study in how much of the modern world is made possible by the management of risk.

There is a basic presumption of fairness and equity that allows the decent folks of the world to truck and barter in peace; to work their jobs and live their lives in relative peace and security. The fancy word for this is justice.

Enter a Charlie Bronson wanna-be and a punk in a hoodie.

The absurdity of the media spectacle surrounding Treyvon Martin is breathtaking. If it were not so tragic, there would be huge amusement to be found. Perhaps my favorite bit is the ability of pundits and race pimps to take a Hispanic guy with a Jewish last name and magically transform him into a Caucasian. I suppose (in accordance with the dull mythology of our age) the logic goes something like this: he’s a villain, therefore he must be white. Seriously, check out this New York Times article

But the nonsense of race-baiting is unimportant here. No matter how you creatively read the awkward narrative that is playing out in the media you get two facts

  1. One or both or parties were pretty stupid. (Seriously, only an idiot goes looking for trouble in the rain.)
  2. We’re a profoundly racist country. There is no chance of this matter being adjudicated separate from race. We simply do not judge people by the content of their character, but rather, we grant people all manner of special privileges based on their real or perceived ethnic background. As Thomas Sowell has so ably observed, in many books, just because people share the same skin color does not mean they share the same culture.

What we can all agree on about the Trayvon Martin shooting.

No one has the expectation that justice is being done or the the truth is being served. A recent Reuters Poll found that 68 percent of those surveyed – including 70 percent of whites, 69 percent of blacks and 57 percent of Hispanics – said the real story of that night would probably never be known.

That poll reveals the real tragedy. It’s bad when anyone gets killed, (even if you believe in capital punishment, you must agree that it would be better if the crime necessitating the punishment had been avoided.) but if you believe that the tragedy is that a kid in a hoodie was shot, I think you miss the bigger picture.

This erosion of trust, embodied in the belief that the real story will never be known, and by extension that justice cannot be done, is an indicator of the extent to which our society has collapsed. From the top to the bottom, the fog of bullshit is so thick, none of us can see our way through it anymore.

We have lost our ability to come to terms and produce justice. The majority of us no longer trust the official account. And we’re not wrong to do so.

When trust breaks down, so does the basis of societal cooperation.

The shooting of Treyvon Martin is not a result of the fraying of our societal fabric, but it reveals our lack of faith that justice will be done. Or that anything resembling reason is in operation. I don’t know how we managed to lose our sense of justice, but there it is.

Is the Trayvon Martin episode merely a symptom of our decline? Are we becoming barbaric as has been alleged in Britain?


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  1. The fallibility of successful
    Nations! It seems that historically for thousands of years : success breeds familiarity and contempt in half the citizens

    They then proceed to destroy the host like a cancer
    No nation can face its external enimies from a weak and even “traitorous”
    Position ,specially if its condoned by nearly half of same. Nonthinking citizens.

    Trust and civility is vital especially in large nations to keep on succeeding

    Historically this period will not be viewed with pride

  2. We have ceased to have a “justice system”. I am not sure when that happened. A lot of it started with the “War on Drugs”, the wannabe ninjas, no-knock warrants, but a lot of it is just a function of having too many lawyers with too little to do coupled with too many stupid laws — a good portion of which contradict one another. What we have now is a “legal system”. Right, wrong, justice, even common sense have been lost. Government is no longer restrained by the Constitution. Judicial decisions and rulings are politically determined when they are not apparently arbitrary. Yes, I am a bit cynical.

  3. Syrin:
    I agree with you.
    What portion of the people are needed to make an impact on the “faith and credit of the U.S. Government.”?
    One-half, two-thirds?
    I am not sure what full faith and credit means in tangible, clear to understand terms.
    If we don’t know that definition, how do we know we have reached the tipping point?
    Or, is the U.S. immune to a tipping point, for we are now God’s chosen people?
    Many people believe we can continue printing money out of thin air. Not only that, but this “creation” of money should not be in the form of debt-bearing interest, but rather should simply be currency blown into creation, like God created the world with 10 utterances.
    I find it easier to believe in God, than in the sustainability of creating money out of thin air.
    Don Levit

  4. Oh, and concerning “justice”. That has no meaning any more. “Justice” means that Obama wants middle class white America to hand over their property to self entitled welfare dependent, racist black America. It is Orwellian at best.

  5. The article fails to mention perhaps the single most important area where trust as a society plays its greatest role. The fiat currency. There is NOTHING backing the value of the dollar other than societal trust, and that is eroding. There are already alternate regional currencies throughout the US, and most financial analysts are predicting widespread inflation. Once societal faith in the dollar is lost, we become the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe over night.

  6. In answer to the bottom line questions, yes and yes.

    There is a third element common to successful societies; uniformity. Not a population of cookie-cutter drones but an underlying set of principles and values that tends to bind a people together. We have lost that. Blame it on the current glorification of “diversity” or something else, but it is evident our once-great nation is divided more now than at least since 1861 and perhaps ever. We have become, not a people but rather the “factions” the founders warned of. There are so many who profit by promoting distrust and division and so many more who blindly follow these “leaders”, the struggle for supremacy of one group over the others will get ugly and barring a miraculous change, unavoidable.

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