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  • Purveyor (2634 posts)
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    The West's Biggest Problem Is Dwindling Trust

    JAN 4, 2017 11:13 AM EST
    ByLeonid Bershidsky

    Many Americans gasp when they see Donald Trump mockingly put the word “intelligence” in quotes when referring to the U.S. intelligence community; it seems heretical to challenge the wisdom and expertise of institutions charged with safeguarding their security and freedoms. As a Russian, I just shrug: I have never believed a word coming from my country’s intelligence services. This cultural gap is shrinking, though. Western societies are turning into low-trust ones, after the post-Communist, Eastern European model.

    Two decades ago, Francis Fukuyama, the man who also blithely declared that history was ending and a liberal democratic paradise was at hand, connected trust with prosperity. He argued that societies with more trust among their members, such as the U.S., Japan and Germany, did better than those with a smaller radius of trust that rarely goes far beyond the family, such as China, Italy, France or Korea. Economic evidence hasn’t quite borne that out, but at least it can be said that a more trustful society is more comfortable to live in, primarily because you don’t have to jump through hoops to prove the purity of your intentions.

    Communism destroyed trust in every country it touched. An all-controlling, mistrustful state set the tone for social interaction and practically invited people to fight it or cheat it. Trust nested in families and small communities of people who knew each other well, but even inside these units there was sometimes a snitch. This annihilation of trust has outlasted communism. Many researchers who have studied the phenomenon have concluded that this has to do with economic development: If institutions and interpersonal relationships fail to deliver well-being, they don’t merit much trust. But if people and institutions are not trusted, there’s no incentive for them to deliver. “There may be a complex, probably circular, self-reinforcing causal mechanism between the level of economic development and the general level of interpersonal and institutional trust,” Zsolt Boda and Gergo Medve-Balint wrote in 2014 in a paper exploring why all types of trust were lower in central and Eastern Europe than in the continent’s west.

    Parts of the former Soviet sphere are caught in this vicious circle. Ukraine, where only volunteer organizations, the military and the church are trusted by more than half the population, has had major difficulties reforming because the government is seen as essentially self-seeking. Low-trust environments are ill-suited for boisterous democracy: It quickly descends into infighting and paralysis. This is not just a post-Communist phenomenon: Italians and Greeks, whose trust in their governments is as low or lower than in Eastern Europe, know it well.

    more…

    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-04/the-west-s-biggest-problem-is-dwindling-trust


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13 replies
  • bemildred (2203 posts)
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    1. Con men rely on trust. It's a big problem.

    It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
    • FanBoy (7035 posts)
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      2. but are there more or fewer conmen in societies where trust is typical?

      I think it’s a wash, and probably not a big problem

      Having lived in both high trust and low trust societies, I prefer high trust

      • bemildred (2203 posts)
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        3. Trust is never typical outside ones own social group.

        The problems arise when trust is betrayed within the social group, and it is a problem for the social group, which ceases to function efficiently and becomes more vulnerable to outside meddling. It’s divisive when friends lie to each other for gain.

        It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
        • FanBoy (7035 posts)
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          4. dunno what you mean by "one's own social group".

          • bemildred (2203 posts)
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            5. The people you trust.

            As opposed to everybody else, that you don’t trust, salesmen, politicians, the media.

            The problem arises when you trust the wrong people, people who are not trustworthy, and lots of people are not trust worthy. Experts are not trustworthy, they are selfish too.

            There are people I trust, but only because I have experience of what they will do when it’s costs them to keep their word. And then I trust them to do that again if it’s not too expensive.

            It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
            • FanBoy (7035 posts)
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              6. kind of circular and un-useful definition. "people you trust" can be

              squeezed to include no one and widened to include nearly everyone = “one’s own social group”.

              • bemildred (2203 posts)
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                7. All definitions are circular. They are definitions.

                It is obvious that you cannot and do not trust everybody, trust is reserved for people close to you. What that means in particular varies from society to society, but there are no societies where you can just trust everybody, and many like ours are very predatory.

                It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
                • FanBoy (7035 posts)
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                  8. no.

                  1.  A circular definition is one that uses the term(s) being defined as a part of the definition or assumes a prior understanding of the term being defined.

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_definition

                   

                  2.  If you were correct then “trust” would be pretty stable.  But it’s not.  It’s dependent on the underlying shape of the society it exists in, and has declined precipitously since the 70s.  I remember a time when we didn’t even lock our doors, when homelessness and drug addiction were rare, and certainly not seen in small towns.  It’s the dog-eat-dog shape of the society and the shredding of the social compact that = low trust.

                   

                  https:[email protected][email protected]c

                  In the United States, feelings of trust have varied historically between groups, though trends among the general population have been observed. Data from the DDB Life Style Survey indicates that trust began to increase throughout the country after World War II, and rose steadily through the 1960s. According to the data, trust peaked in 1967–1968, when roughly 56% of survey respondents agreed that “most people can be trusted.” From there, trust began to decline, and the trend has continued ever since…

                  The correlation between birth cohorts and trust coincided with the findings about Millenials that I mentioned earlier. The cohort chart below shows a consistent gap in trust between generations, with later cohorts trusting less than earlier ones. More specifically, an average of 19% of Millenials reported that they trusted most people

                  People who were satisfied or “more or less satisfied” with their finances agreed that most people could be trusted more often than those who were not satisfied. Similarly, those who felt their families earned above average or average were more trusting than those who felt their families earned below the average…

                  Eric Uslaner has written at length about the effect of income inequality on trust. He found that people were less inclined to trust one another where incomes were perceived to be more unequal. That effect could have been involved here, given that economic inequality has increased in the United States since the 1970s.

                  • bemildred (2203 posts)
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                    9. Yes, they all are derivative.

                    1.) All words are defined in terms of other words. There is no undefined definition, just as there is no Archimedian point, and no absolute inertial frame of reference. When you use the word in its own definition, that just makes the situation clear.

                    “People you trust” is not circular, it is empirical. Empirical definitions work pretty good, even if they don’t mean the same thing for everybody.

                    2.) With regard to your second point, what it is that I would be correct about in your premise “If you were correct”? And why would that require trust to be stable? I agree it is not, but don’t understand why you think I must think otherwise.

                    It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
                    • FanBoy (7035 posts)
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                      10. there is no society where you trust everybody, but there are societies

                      where you trust people who aren’t “close to you,” or trust “people in general”

                      And that everything can be defined “in words” doesn’t = “all definitions are circular”

                      nor does “derivative” = “circular”

                       

                       

                    • bemildred (2203 posts)
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                      11. Smaller ones work better because everybody knows everybody.

                      But even there the anthropologists are “appalled’ at some of the stuff that goes on, and there are no rules and no enforcement mechanisms in that world.

                      In larger groups I think it depends on the government, the chief, the boss, if he enforces rules, people have trust. If not, not.

                      I was born here in 1945 and the thing is back then trust was higher because the government was more trustworthy. It was right after WWII and we were rich as bejeezus and they were worried about what all those returning soldierws would do if they tried to shit on them. After Vietnam, once they got Carter out of office, it all went back to the normal kleptocratic approach one sees from the beginning of the nation.

                      It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.
                    • FanBoy (7035 posts)
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                      12. there have been small societies where trust was low also

                      and things went backwards on purpose

                    • bemildred (2203 posts)
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                      13. Some of them really suck, like I said.

                      There are no guarantees. Many families suck really bad too.

                      Trust is for children, who have no choice, and suckers. Whenever some guy tells me I need to trust him I start looking for the exits and considering how crazy he appears at the moment.

                      I guess I am biased against trusting people I don’t know well.

                      It ain't the things you don't know that hurts you, it's the things you know that ain't so.