Trust: Two Views

Two great thinkers, Nick Szabo and Bruce Schneier, have both written articles on trust.

Nick Szabo’s take supports the use of reliable automated infrastructure that reduces the need for trust:

Reverse-engineering our highly evolved traditional institutions, and even reviving in new form some old ones, will usually work better than designing from scratch, than grand planning and game theory. One important strategy for doing so was demonstrated by Satoshi—sacrifice computational efficiency and scalability—consume more cheap computational resources—in order to reduce and better leverage the great expense in human resources needed to maintain the relationships between strangers involved modern institutions such as markets, large firms, and governments.

On the other hand, Bruce Scheier’s take makes a very simple case for the government’s role in ensuring competitiveness of the ecosystem:

Because the point of government is to create social trust. I started this talk by explaining the importance of trust in society, and how interpersonal trust doesn’t scale to larger groups. That other, impersonal kind of trust—social trust, reliability and predictability—is what governments create.

To the extent a government improves the overall trust in society, it succeeds. And to the extent a government doesn’t, it fails.


On the closely related, if not identical, topic of “social capital”:

Bowling Alone: Revised and Updated: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”, first published in 2000, just after the DotCon H-1b flood and “revised” barely a year later, and social capital is still in decline over 2 decades later.

Robert Putnam delayed publishing his findings on the corrosive effect of immigration on social capital so he could write a more hopeful epilogue asserting that the loss of social capital was only temporary and we’d all come out of it stronger.

Has he ever apologized?


With all due respect (and I have favourably reviewed some of Bruce Schneier’s books), I think he’s full of it here. Government, at least in its modern incarnation as the all-encompassing, all-regulating nanny state is the most destructive influence on trust in society since the concept of the god-king upon which it is based. Trust grows from the bottom-up, and spreads outward from family to friends to acquaintances, and onward to co-workers, members of a church, attendees at school board meetings, and onward. A high-trust society is something precious, and it’s no coincidence that you tend to find them where the dead hand of top-down coercive government is least in evidence.

And a high-trust society is precisely what gets destroyed when the self-organised web of trust is replaced by top-down regulations imposed from a distant imperial capital and administered by meat automata who pay no attention to the individual circumstances to which their written rules (around 14.7 million words in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations at this writing) apply. “That puddle in your back yard where you left the sprinklers on too late last night? That’s a navigable water, bub, and you’d better comply with all the rules in case the Navy decides to sail one of their Figurative Combat Ships through it.”

A high-trust society is particularly vulnerable to poisoning by injection of even a small number of low-trust participants. One of the most precious things about a high-trust society is that, for the most part, you can trust people you don’t know. If you import, say, 5 or 10% of people from cultures where thievery, fraud, and violence are the norm, then that trust collapses, and it’s “shields up” with everybody, unless you try to identify the newcomers by their external appearance, in which case you’re reviled as a “racist”. And it isn’t even so much a question of race but culture. High- or low-trust behaviour is inculcated by one’s parents and relatives in childhood and tends to be “sticky” even several generations after immigration into another society.


Amen. As I read this highly persuasive reply, I immediately thought of language. Until recently and with the exception of the Biblical Babel event, it has been self organizing, organic. Nowadays, when the same nanny state can no longer define the word ‘woman’, forbids the use of some words and changes the meaning of others, we approach a modern version of Babel. Such is the result of top down language.

BTW, speaking of language, I don’t like the term ‘nanny state’, because nannies are benign, belenolent. Calling our betters nannies (a term surely invented by an approving MSM-type) already buys in to the system and implies benevolence. It has become clearly malevolent. We need a new term. I just may explore terminology used in the roundup and movement of cattle to slaughter houses. I suspect the reader knows why, as we milk cows are surely in the process of becoming corralled as beeves instead.


I don’t think you’d disagree that much with Bruce. In this case, for example, the government scope of control is whether to open up or close down for immigration and set the rules. For example, contrast the former British colonies receiving (on average!) higher-cultured immigration and EU receiving lower-cultured immigration:


He states that he has confidence when flying not because he trusts the pilot, but that he has confidence in the government regulations. Is he serious? I never think of government regulations with regard to safety or reliability. I never once thought TSA made it safer or any regulations helped the plane stay together or the pilot capable of flying it. The reason I felt safe was because of predictability and reliability. Since many thousand of flights have taken place and there have been very few crashes, I know statistically it is pretty safe to fly.

Nobody really thinks… “thank god for regulation or the lights might not come on”. They expect the lights to turn on because the lights have always turned on. If they fail to turn on, you don’t think “we need a new regulation”.

Having worked in medical grade manufacturing, I would be scared to death if I relied on government regulation for the safety, predictability or reliability of a product.

Products and services are safe because corporations will not stay in business if they are not safe. Period. They are reliable and predictable because otherwise the business will fail. McDonalds makes burgers the same way everywhere in the world not to satisfy regulations. They do it to satisfy customers. .

Even if regulation was the solution, the US government doesn’t have the trust, credibility or competence to do the job.


You don’t think that, and I don’t think that, but I believe there are a lot of people—way too many—who do think that. Consider how many regulations have been created due to freakish one-off incidents that caught the public’s attention, who responded “There oughta be a law (or regulation)”, and political and/or administrative entrepreneurs who jump to provide one and thereby increase their power and headcount, regardless of the cost to benefit ratio of forcing everybody to comply with the new rule.


16 years ago NPR carried a conversation with Robert Putnam on the damage diversity does to social trust, supposedly only “in the short term”. By carefully ignoring the fact that this “diversity” was relentlessly imposed against the will of more than a supermajoirty for 50 years, they are making us “think past the sale” so they can continue to berate Americans about their xenophobia. 10 years later Trump was elected President and these idiots were so shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that they hallucinated Russians under their beds. Meanwhile, community trust has only gotten worse. Immigration has only gotten worse. Wealth disparity from cheap labor has only gotten worse. Trust in the Federal government is all but gone. Trust in each other is all but gone.


Nevertheless, CongressScum are more likely to die in office than to be tossed out off office by a democratic vote of their constituents. Collectively, we are getting exactly what we vote for – good & hard, as the saying goes.

What is a solution to re-establish trust in government? I, for one, don’t know. But I suspect that any solution will involve abolishing universal suffrage, and making the right to vote something that a citizen has to earn by making a contribution of some kind to society. Sadly, that will have to wait until after the collapse.