The Trust Deficit

This weekend, the National Journal published, “In Nothing We Trust,” using Muncie, Indiana to illustrate the distrust that is eating away at the American social fabric.

NC readers can argue that Muncie is likely to be an extreme example of this phenomenon. It’s a Rust Belt city, hit by the downturn in manufacturing, and large enough to have a real distance between the government and the populace (by contrast, one of my brothers lives in a mill town in the Upper Midwest which has seen its population fall by 20% in the last 15 years, but it is small enough that the local officials are accessible and therefore the locals seem on the whole pretty well disposed toward them).

The story it endeavors to tell is that of a middle class whose expectations are no longer being met. One focus is that of John Whitmire, who mows the lawn of a home that he allegedly no longer owns because he otherwise runs the risk of being fined for failing to maintain it. That telling, of course, makes it sound like a Kafkaesque bad joke, when the story is simpler. Whitmire tried and failed to get a permanent HAMP mod after a job loss and declared bankruptcy. He moved out because he was no longer paying, but the house is still in his name. He does indeed own it, despite his belief otherwise, and it would be easy to miss when the article finally mentions that wee fact.

The institutions the story depicts as functioning well are the evangelical churches, which are downscale country clubs, and the local charter schools. The traditional churches are in decline, the public schools are falling behind, the City Council is discredited.

The article describes the result as a deserved or at least understandable loss of faith in institutions; the comments on the piece extol it as proof that government sucks.

But there is reason to think that the causality might run the other way: that trust and social bonds generally have weakened, and where that will show up most acutely is in institutions that have authority over us but over which we feel we have little sway. And this distrust, ironically, plays into the hands of the powerful, since people need to have enough faith in each other to be able to organize against vested interests to get their needs met. Napoleon was a big promoter of individualism, for he believed it made people easier to control.

For instance, the length of most contracts has gone up considerably. It wasn’t that long ago that a lot of routine business could be done on a handshake, with a letter agreement commemorating the arrangement (and then more to make sure that the two sides had heard each other correctly). The old saw is that a contract is only as good as the parties that enter into them. The common use of extremely detailed agreements reflects the fact that the parties to the agreement see the odds of litigation much higher than in the past and are spending more time papering up their agreements as protection against that event. In other words, they are going into business with people they don’t really trust to behave properly. And that is a valid concern. The norms of business used to be that if something unexpected happened, the two sides would make a good faith effort to come up with a fair solution. Now, too often, when Shit Happens, it’s often treated as an opportunity to wring more profit out of the deal.

Another factor may be that many people see their relationships with institutions as less durable, and hence it’s easier to abandon them rather than try to fix them. In his book On Value and Values, Doug Smith described how our traditional relationships had been place-based, while now we relate to each other through markets, networks, workplaces and other organizations, and of course through friends and families. Place based relationships are durable whether you like it or not (my family comes from coastal Maine, and families have reputations that go back generations: “Oh, you know the Rickers are ornery..”). And the fact that you will be dealing with the same people repeatedly gives everyone huge incentives to be pretty trustworthy and to work disputes out.

By contrast, our relationships to organizations are tenuous and elective. The relationship most of us want to be the most stable, that of employment, is fragile and typically short. The National Journal piece describes how people abandoned traditional churches for high service mega-churches and public schools for charter schools. The article thus takes the conventional view that the public no longer has faith in a whole long list of organizations, when in some cases, the decline of the organization is partly due to its some of its members withdrawing rather than pressuring it to shape up. And on top of that, since the Reagan era, government has been depicted in a negative light, which becomes a self fulfilling prophecy (fewer good people chose public service, budgets get cut which result in lower performance levels, justifying the negative views and paving the way for further funding reductions).

There are no simple answers to the loss of social cohesion depicted in the National Journal article. Other factors, like the supplanting of in-person dealing with shallower social media based relationships, also play into this dynamic and seem impossible to reverse. But its consequences are serious and will intensify unless we come up with new strategies for collective action.

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    1. Vermont Cesium

      Can we get Bernie Sanders to shut down the wealth stealing F35 base in Vermont? People are unemployed, being foreclosed on and have no jobs and it would be reasonable if this old crutch was shaking his fist in the appropriate direction. Is Sanders a master of being a fake and why we can’t trust any politician?

    2. Lambert Strether

      All this is not to say that I disagree with the over-all thrust of the post (and in particular the really interesting focus on how contracts have evolved). Trust is a huge issue! However:

      IMNSHO somebody’s* using Fournier to talk their book: No doubt whichever R campaign consulting shop/faction Fournier’s wired into; that’s my guess. The tell is the focus on evangelical churches and charter schools as the only functioning institutions; R shops focus on mobilizing them (and on destroying all other institutions).

      I would argue that, at the local level, there are all sorts of non-state, non-church institutions spring up that build social cohesion (rather like a mycelial mat ;-). Food security and food offer a whole class of efforts (and, at least in my experience, are one place where the left and right extremes meet; which would be one good reason for a right wing campaign shop to ignore it). Here is a link to Muncie’s urban garden, curiously not mentioned in Fournier’s article. Local currency is another such issue.

      Another way that Fournier’s article is wrong or at least incomplete is that he looks at the Internet from the top down, via eBay and Google, classic weak tie systems. But long-term, long-form blogs — because “style is the person” — can form ties that are strong. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had this experience.

      NOTE * Yes, Ron Fournier is a piece of work. Here he is sucking up to the odious Karl Rove. (Recent Yale graduate Quinton is, I think, too young to know better.)

      UPDATE Adding, I knew that if I did a little Googling, I’d come up with something else that Rove Fournier oddly, or not, ignores. Occupy Muncie! It looks like an interesting story, and I’m betting it’s not the only one like it in the heartland, stories that played out without the rest of the country hearing or knowing. Cursory search yields links here, here, and here. Some of the Muncie Occupiers came from Ball State University, another Muncie institution that Rove Fournier oddly, or not, ignores.

      UPDATE Tinkered with this as I realized I’d started shredding Fournier. Sorry!

      1. Richard Kline

        So Lambert, yeah I too found the whole slant of this piece most suss. Read the poll. It shows, putatively, that the Muncieites queried love the military, think well of evangelical churches, pack into charter schools, and like their ‘local health care.’ That they loath everything to do with institutional government. In a piece writen by a Repugnicant Party back-slapper. To my mind, said back-slapper looked around for a solidly right wring, white, disappointed socially conservative town to support prior talking points and then ‘polled them for their [intended to be found] opinions.’ If one looks at the poll also, Congress is at the very bottom; finer parsing of that rating has much to do with loathing of the Repugnicants therein, but I doubt you’ll find that consideration delivered in a local quote int his piece.

        To me, this is high-end propaganda, really quite good at that. But is is _not_ data, study, research, or representative opinion—nor was it ever intended to be.

    3. nonclassical

      ..yes, but the Nation Magazine earned every bit of accumulated derision recently with front cover asking, “Can we trust government now?” calls, e-mails cancellations ensued..

      1. Bud

        The remarkable thing is that anyone, at any time, in any place, should think government may be “trusted”. What, please, is the enduring evidence of such a fantasy belief in the real word?

        The US Constitution was founded precisely on the premise of extreme DIStrust of government. Fools and knaves have since gradually twisted it inside out to support the opposite premise. It won’t end well.

  1. Scott

    I have a theory that bedrock communities like Muncie where once the church and tradition and Middle Class wages
    were the firmament are less resilient than non-traditional bohemian influenced communities.

    For example, where people live in non traditional housing, in storefronts, lofts, warehouses and in shared housing, there will be less shock and more ability to adapt to hard times and inflating rents. Because of the “lack of standards” there will be more real community, a community of necessity, borne of fighting the system, rather than relying on it. You can’t be let down by the disapperance of something that was never there for you to begin with.

    This is why alternate farming and small scale businesses are the last hope for the economically disenfranchised.

    1. jake chase

      I think this has been going on since at least 1965, but its effects were selective, affecting first those impacted by the Viet Nam war, then corporate downsizing and offshoring, then stock market investors, finally suburban “homeowners” whose American dream proved a debt leveraged fantasy. We now have a large accumulation of formerly middle class people, perhaps even a majority, who realize that financial and corporate and government and military leaders are nothing more than rent extractors and bullshit artists. A minority of observant critics has have spent thirty years wondering when reality would strike a suburban majority which confused productive work with buying credentials, surviving job interviews, showing up, shuffling paper and being polite. Anyone who now expects anything but years and years of painful adjustments is still probably embracing fantasy.

      1. Up the Ante

        “..realize that financial and corporate and government and military leaders are nothing more than rent extractors and bullshit artists. ”

        This type ?,

        This type ?,

        Those performing the ‘Goodness’ of looting America ?

      2. Nathanael

        I expect something very different from years and years of painful adjustments. I expect cataclysm.

        The well-educated “middle class” is generally the group you do not want to screw if you are the elite. Once you screw them over, they get revolutionary.

      3. F. Beard

        Anyone who now expects anything but years and years of painful adjustments is still probably embracing fantasy. jake chase

        Disagree! The problem is mostly lack of money in the right hands and the system which caused that lack. Both are fixable without too much fuss.

  2. Economista Non Grata

    Expectation is the mother of all disappointments…. Ignorance is it’s daddy….. There’s a huge gap between collective knowledge and zeitgeist…. That warm, secure and cozy place once known as the promise of America, was a delusion caused be a cognitive disorder… Go ahead and keep believing the political promises that tomorrow is going to look just like yesterday…. However, there are many reasons to be quite cheerful…. Here are 17 of them from Matt Ridley…'s-digest.aspx

    1. My Chevron

      Ignorance is bliss, as they say. Engineers for example, determing a bridge support is inadequate, aren’t pessimistic.
      The sciences are filled with opportunitists, who discover turning a buck means approving a drug or something worse. Dudes a hack, there is plenty to be hopeful about without sounding so basically dumb. Frack that, ya bitch!

  3. Paul Tioxon

    Trust has to be earned. But where do learn in order to earn? In order for collective action to take place, we need a social venue for individuals to learn how to work in groups. But most people’s behavior is attenuated by the socialization they receive from the larger culture. And the dominant culture received via media, home, school and work is a business culture of making money at nearly all costs. In church, we act together in mostly a passive manner, with no real goal in sight, but a goal with mind to lay away treasures in heaven. As pointed out, the church can be little more than a country club and the congregants united by little more than the mortgage on the church property. And treasures in heaven, followed by a desert of pie in the sky.

    But what about the dreamers who want to put food on the table, keep a roof over head and see to the proper upbringing of their family in youth and retirement? Education and health care are brought into the mix as well as some modern elements such as smart phones, the internet and an entertainment electronics buffet in home or apartment. We need a job to make the money to pay the debt service on things we need. Money, used to be what we needed in order to buy, but now, money is a commodity that we buy in order to participate in society at all.

    So many here on NC do not want to vote for the lesser of two evils. And some libertarians won’t be free until they strangle the last government bureaucrat with the intestines of the last elected official. Political activity is an intangible group activity that seems only happen on election day, unless you a more active in the party or some other dreaded front organization that supports the superstructure of over all political party messaging.

    But some where in society, the individual must bite the bullet and work with other individuals in order to learn how to operate the necessary institutions and organizations that keep a complex society of over 300,000,000 people fed, housed, sheltered from freezing to death or dying from heat stroke. The market can NOT be delegated the task of miraculously making decisions for the whole of humanity or of a nation. Deliberation using reason, and a democratic decision making process informing the largest policy issues is necessary minimum. When I hear that there is no alternative, I know that there is no revolutionary replacement that is available off the shelf to replace what currently feeds us all, houses us all and keeps us all from falling into a spiral of dark superstitious ignorance within one generation. WE need the current system to function so we can survive until we can grow into a new one. A new system that we know how to operate. We learn by doing and do by leaving the old world behind and building the new one. Right now, there is a solution, maybe a mixture of several alternatives struggling to gain critical mass. The solar economy, organic farming, food cooperatives that are forming, more credit unions and public banks. We can not simply trust in the abstract, but by doing and learning how to trust by doing projects together. Feudalism lived next to capitalism, until it was overcome. Capitalism lives next to many alternatives, some which will replace it.

    1. Susan the other

      I am enjoying this line of dialog. It is the doorway to the practical. It ain’t nothin’ if it ain’t practical. To paraphrase Janis Joplin. After WW2 Europe was so destroyed it had to shovel out. And so it is with us today. When the social bedrock picks up a shovel and goes to work, there is where we will create transformation. But we will always need to keep an eye on the self-scheming financiers who would be more than happy to rip us off even in these critical times. For the banksters to make a profit on these times is out of the question. They should be taking at least a big a hit as we are.

      1. F. Beard

        For the banksters to make a profit on these times is out of the question. Susan the other

        What times? Did an asteroid hit? Have we had massive crop failures? Massive population losses? WW III?

        No. What we have are mere accounting problems that could be solved with some brand new fiat and a ban on further counterfeiting by the banks.

        They should be taking at least a big a hit as we are. sto

        No one need take much of a hit with a universal bailout ala Steve Keen.

        1. Susan the other

          I have come to agree with you Beard. Steve Keen’s (and your) solution would work. I kept thinking there was another “establishment” solution that would clean up the banks and produce justice. I no longer believe any of that.

        2. LucyLulu

          I also agree that a universal bailout would likely work. Unfortunately, I see the chances of it coming to pass being slimmer than the chances of banksters being held accountable for their crimes. I hate to rain on your parade, but how do you expect a universal bailout in the U.S. when benefits we paid for, such as social security, are now considered “entitlements” and on the chopping block.

          C-span had coverage of the Senate budget committee. They were discussing the 2013 budget and Democrats were embracing Simpson-Bowles ideas. Chairman Conrad (D) proposed three tax brackets, 28, 22, and 12% with elimination of mortgage and charity deductions (though capital gains taxed as ordinary income), and using chained CPI for SS cost-of-living adjustments. There seemed to be broad support for the Ryan/Wyden Medicare plan, which is another huge gift to private insurers, who will refuse to insure, or charge outrageous rates, to the elderly with chronic health problems, so Medicare will get dumped with all the sickest of the elderly……. which will lead Republicans to point to skyrocketing costs of Medicare as further proof of the inefficiencies of government-run programs. Even our “progressive” politicians are embracing austerity measures and looking to trim the deficit, and few ordinary citizens have ever heard of MMT, so realistically, where will the demand for a universal bailout come from?

          1. F. Beard

            so realistically, where will the demand for a universal bailout come from? LucyLulu

            How many people returned Bush’s “stimulus checks”?

            The true question is who would oppose it and why?

    2. Aquifer

      “When I hear that there is no alternative, I know that there is no revolutionary replacement that is available off the shelf ….”

      Well, when I hear TINA, i know the system is desperately trying to keep us from checking the shelves for those alternatives …

      “WE need the current system to function so we can survive until we can grow into a new one.”

      The current system is the one that is threatening, not nurturing, that survival …. It needs to convince us that TINA to just patching up the holes in this leaky ship of state even as it keeps drilling new ones ….

      Remember, “drill, baby, drill!” is the theme of the day …

    3. nonclassical

      ..which is where we will be retiring…after having set up wonderful retirement lifestyle here….

  4. Rob Peters

    Excellent article!

    There are a number of factors that has eroded trust. I believe that greed, globalization, breakdown of the family unit, and rapid technology adoption have all had detrimental effects on trust and trustworthiness.

    The reality is that in this hyper-connected and transparent world, trusting another person, product, or business too much can be risky.

    We all need to do a better job of earning trust ny being “trustworthy” in our interactions. Our reputations and online and offline is is foundational and will enable our success. Your reputation will based on your actions, kept-commitments and perceptions of you by others in your professional and personal life. Just as the FICO score here in the states has a great effect on your ability to buy a home or car, your Relationship Capital (RC) that you have earned will show the world that you keep your commitments and are credible.

    We are not going back to a less transparent or less connected world so be mindful of what you stand-for, your core principles, and do all you can to keep your commitments. Your kept-commitments have always been important asset to your success, but now it is becoming more tangible. Earning Relationship Capital (RC) is not just important to an individual, but also for a business organization and/or product/service.

    1. Nathanael

      This has never changed. Trustworthiness has always been primary to the economy. Ask any “bank and trust company” from the 19th century….

      There was a strange bubble from about the 40s to the 2000s when the level of trust in US institutions was very high. It’s reverting….

      1. Tim

        Agreed. The excessive amount of trust rendered the value of trust in the market unknowable, hence of no value at all. Only once trust can begin to be properly valued again will there be businesses and institutions able to capitalize on it and take market share away from the untrustworthy.

        I believe an overshoot of lack of trust will be what is required to overvalue trust such that it is reinserted as A means to a profitable enterprise.

  5. Thorstein

    Yves’ comments on Muncie remind me of Garrison Keillor’s observation that “all the smart kids left Lake Woebegone to go to college.” Some of us turn up here on NC, but our day jobs have us working for this or that multinational, like crew on different pirate ships, each flying the flag of a different Crown. We back to our house at night and don’t know our neighbors, whose only friends visit them nightly on TV. These houses are not homes.

    Meanwhile, back home in Cato, Wisconsin, where Thorstein hails from, the elected officials are increasingly the not-so-bright kids whom “progress” left behind. They aren’t very good at writing their own laws, so they’re happy to have ALEC or the Republicrat party do that for them. The political system can rot from the bottom, too.

  6. El Snarko

    I am aware of Muncie, but from Dayton, Ohio this does not ring completely true. Starting in the Carter administration and accelerating in that of Reagan (busing did it) we lost over a third of the population, then two world headquarters (NCR & Mead). When we lost six GM plants in the last part of the 90’s/00 globalization, as well as the bulk of the two hundred machine shops that supported them we were sunk. This gutted the restaurants, bars, clothing, shoe and music stores as well as the tax base.

    However, at a certain point the people who are left are those who want to stay or must. This is heavily made up of Blacks, newly formed households, retirees, gays, preservationists and a catch all group I call artists/homeremodelers/employed-slacker-techies-musicians. Some have called this last group the creative class. This includes a significant amount of human capital and includes former profs, NCR middle managers, ex-Air Force, and a whole double serving of degreed over 45 year olds (often between positions:))who are trying to aply high expectations and managerial expertise to city issues.

    Our experience is that local govermental agencies listen, but are hugely constrained in their response by lack of tax base and the now obviously deliberate turning away from cities on the part of the Kasich administration. Without funding all you can do it hold meetings, attempt to enforce housing codes, and try to chase owners of abandoned properties. Dayton had been in myopinion only,to lenient far to long on property owners.

    Support for efforts and community buikding centers on traditional churches, and most public schools. The cahrters are failures, with a few exceptions. Scandals and rip offs have been emerging. Ironically, it is clear that much of this was caused by Republican policy that many of the people now attendingthese meetings voted for for a generation. Failure to adequately tax, as well as to put forth the effort to confront the need for changes in education and labor relations, as well as tax structure have come back to bite us. When everyone is ‘exceptional’, we are all just muppets. The Commons is now a swamp that must be drained or else we will be sucked to immobility.

    1. SidFinster

      A friend of mine lives in Dayton, and he echoes what you describe.

      He didn’t say anything about gays, and I don’t know why gay people in particular would have to or want to stay in Dayton, but that is my own curiosity speaking here.

  7. ambrit

    One part of the equation I wonder about is how much the impoverishment of the ‘working’ classes will effect the emerging new social interaction methods. Agreed, i-phones and various apps etc. are becoming the new social arena. However, all this costs ‘real’ money. Phone bills over $100 a month are common among the twentysomethings I work alongside. All this as their earnings are reduced one way or another. As larger and larger percentages of the population have to drop out of the Electronic Arena, how do they and society adjust? As stated earlier, face to face living used to be the norm. As the anti-gentrification of America continues, might it not become the norm again?
    I’m suspecting that the new Feudal Society of our future will be divided between the “Connected” and the “Unconnected.”

    1. Nathanael

      Watch for people “inside the system” figuring out how to pirate cellphone service. Also watch for the spread of open WiFi, which is designed to avoid the monopolistic cellphone charges….

    2. Mark P.

      ‘Phone bills over $100 a month are common among the twentysomethings I work alongside.’

      I see this commonly, too, and I assume most of these people are idiots.

      $45 quarterly for unlimited global calling (via Skype) and $35 bucks monthly unlimited national calling on an Android phone (e.g. via Virgin) are readily available options — and there are cheaper ones — without going near the measures Nathaniel proposes (though they’re also workable if you want to be somewhat off-grid).

      1. JCC

        Better yet, set up your own asterisk server and, other than the cost of electricity and an internet connection, a $.015 cent a minute avg calling rate overseas, free google calling in the U.S. and Canada, and your yearly home phone bill will probably drop to far less than even skype charges. Over the last 48 months my total bill including somewhat regular calls to Bangkok, Thailand and Ennis, Ireland from CA have run about $12.00/yr to $15.00/yr.

        Who needs a cell phone? I lived happily for 49 of my 59 years without one, and most of the calls I do get on it now are work-related (I suppose I should be grateful for the work part :-) As long as I have an internet connection I can route calls through my own private home PBX to anywhere.

        There are a lot of great things about the Internet and with a little imagination, “paying rent to the man” can be easily avoided regarding anything internet-related… other than the connection fee itself, of course.

        In keeping with the theme of the article itself, trust is primarily local, I think, nowadays and I run my own private social network for friends and family and many use it for pics and news. This could easily be done on a community basis and done inexpensively without the fear of complete loss of privacy so prevalent today with Facebook and the rest.

  8. deeringhthamnus

    Enforcing contracts is now impossible without loads of money, because our legal system will let the wealthier party run up fees on you until you “settle”. I know a small business inventor whose licensees were funded by a hedge fund to use predatory litigation to try to steal the patents. The hedge fund put many millions of dollars into the small business’s contracting licensee , after that licensee’s patent license had been terminated for flagantly not complying with the inventor’s contract. At one point, the inventor was under gag order, due to the predators filing a TRO,saying irreperable harm would be done if the truth got out. This is even though the contract specified an arbitration case. The inventor had to bail, and sell his business to the Europeans, to pay the lawyer bills. The business in Europe now employs about a hundred people. The only person who had skin in the game was the small business inventor. The hedge fund, who invested millions of dollars into a comapny whose patent license had already been pulled, was funded by the usual culprits, pension funds and university endowments, and the licensee was a penny stock exchange company that scammed old ladies out of their retirement. The fact here is that money saw an opportunity to steal a valuable invention, and, the inventor, with something valuable, but no money to defend it, started to attract flies like shei$.

    1. Nathanael

      This has caused professors of entrepeneurship to argue that the patent system is worthless and that entrepeneurs should just ignore it.

      And that within the US, they should ignore the legal system for the most part too.

      This is new. This is not good news for the US. Countries with functioning legal systems have a major advantage economically.

      1. deeringhthamnus

        Dear Nathanael,

        To paraphrase you, I guess I could have more simply said, there are only two kinds of rich people, those who are the law, and those who break the law.

  9. Yes Men Hide the Truth

    Great article, lemme cut and paste:

    “shallower social media based relationships, also play into this dynamic and seem impossible to reverse”

    I see wise use of technology as enhancing these relationships,
    we have IT being used as a proprietary weapon much to often, when the promise remains empowerment for moi and you.

  10. Lyle

    My thesis is that the political issue at the heart of todays politics is who do you trust least. If on the right it is government, on the left it is business. Both groups have labored mightily to destroy the trust that had been built up since 1930.
    The best policy today is to assume that everyone is out to get you and act accordingly, or perhaps all be it in a different context than originally put Ronald Regans trust but verify.

    1. Nathanael

      This was also the best policy during the US in the 1920s — assume everyone’s out to get you.

      I won’t say it’s like the 1920s again — that was the 2000s. We had the analogue crash of ’29 in 2008. We’re now in the very dangerous situation of the Great Depression with no FDR. Some countries went fascist.

  11. jsmith

    Americans really need to harken back to the turn of the century when true socialism was actually a viable movement.

    As witnessed during the rise of the post-war (WWII) “left” in the US, much of the movement was based more upon the “self” than actually trying to band together people of all different socio-economic strata.

    There was a great article – I’ll post when I find it – a number of years ago that really broke down how few leaders/members of the “left” in the 1960s actually attempted to intergrate labor and blue-collar workers into the counter-culture movement.

    That’s why it was easy to destroy the movement through a few strategically placed assassinations.

    Instead of collective action, it was mostly words and show as evidenced by many of the original neocons stating that they had been Trotskyites – ha! – before they saw the light.

    Socialism/collectivism need not be doctrinaire and “sexy” to be effective.

    It just needs to “be there” for everyone in a society.

    1. Nathanael

      The counter-culture movement wasn’t really destroyed. It would be more accurate to say that it went underground. Meanwhile, it’s won the hearts and minds of the generations which were born after 1976 or so.

      1. SidFinster

        I would say that the lingering effects of the counterculture *is* a lot of the problem in trying to build anything like socialism.

        In fact the counterculture has utterly discredited socialism among all but the most overeducated and precious. Mention any idea which might be located anywhere to the left of John Birch and one of the stock insults you hear will be along the line of “hippie”.

        I won’t even go into the divisive and utterly counterproductive aftereffects of identity politics.

  12. furiouscalves

    i saw that Caterpillar is moving jobs and a plant from Canada to Muncie. I’m sure the local gov’t is touting this as a win for the city.

    the punchline: the Canadian workers were paid $25/hr and the muncie folks will be paid $12/hr. what is even more interesting is that CATs headquarters are in not so far away Peoria. Oh, and CAT is selling the crap out its products overseas and making out pretty good – even with the “expensive” and “uncompetitive” canadian workers.

    welcome to the new america

    1. Waking Up

      In other words, Caterpillar is trying to force a “race to the bottom” mentality on Canadians.

      “Napoleon was a big promoter of individualism, for he believed it made people easier to control.”
      – Yves

      Being “connected” technologically or “connected” as human beings are vastly different. I would prefer one good friend who I talk face to face with over having a thousand “facebook friends”. There is no comparison. A similar dynamic occurs with our neighbors and the community we live within. People may believe they are better “connected” because of technology but often our actual human relations are paying the price because people aren’t connecting psychologically with those around them. Example, go to a meeting in a room where a large number of people are on cell phones rather than getting to know people in the room. We are “disconnecting” from those around us. All of the disconnect and “individualism” certainly does not make for a better society in which your main goal is always “ME”. 300,000,000 people who always put “ME” first results in chaos…our current political parties and corporations reflect that.

    2. Aquifer

      Ah, yes the Cat that killed (Rachel) Corrie … They are making a killing overseas alright …

  13. steelhead23

    An interesting lamentation. Just the other day I was telling my wife that a major part of my discomfort is a kind of grieving. I was brought up on an Army base, was an altar boy and a Cub Scout. I loved my country. I got an appointment to Annapolis, which I turned down due to Viet Nam. I then protested in the streets. This is not the country I grew up in. My literate friends would be quick to remind me that my image of my country was loaded with patriotic propaganda, and while that’s true, the country has changed. It has become coarser and crasser. Cheating has become a lifestyle. While petty scandals like the GSA or SS stories now making headlines may be seen as one-offs, I believe they are indicative of the direction the country is heading.

  14. F. Beard


    Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD. Jeremiah 17:5


    He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered. Proverbs 28:26

    1. Waking Up

      Question? Why has it been for decades (and possibly centuries) now that those who preach the gospel of “wealth making” have been amply rewarded (Joel Osteen and even Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein declared he is doing “God’s work” as two quick examples) which makes life easier here on earth? We have to put our “faith” in God that life will be better in the hereafter? There is no proof of a hereafter. AND, if God is so all powerful, why doesn’t it strike down the greediest and most power hungry among us instead of rewarding them? If your answer is that it is the work of Satan, then is Satan more powerful than God?

      1. SidFinster

        As regards the “prosperity gospel” and its offshoots: I suppose the rulers of the Arabian peninsula must be the holiest folks on the planet!

        Besides being rich beyond the dreams of avarice, the sheikhs and sharifs do not have to so much as lift a finger for their wealth. Their money comes out of the ground, delivered by an army of slaves and foreign technicians.

  15. Jean

    In 2010, when I voiced a complaint with our insurance company regarding a 35% increase in homeowners insurance premium, the first line response, starting with the receptionist, was that rate increase was caused by the government. It struck me right out of the gate that this response was totally scripted. After a brief exchange with the receptionist failed to satisfy me, I was transferred to the agent, who immediately took up the same line. Yes indeed, it was because of the government.

    The company uses a proprietary “insurance score”, and my score was bad, but being proprietary, I could not be given information on exactly why my score was bad. The agent asked several questions of me, of where I might be deficient leading to this increase in rates? Apparently, my score suffered from the fact that my husband and I were in the process of buying a new home, with me having a higher debt load than before. But, the same insurance company was issuing a policy on the new home, with an insurance value of about 75% more than the old house, which was titled in my name alone. The premiums for the two houses were close to the same amount.

    So, the insurance agent’s line “it’s because of the government” came down to the fact that there is an insurance score, a proprietary tool, and the insurance commission has allowed this to be instituted, but the insurance commission, like me, has no idea what that involves. Nonetheless, the insurance company is allowed by the state to base premiums on this score. So, the fault lies with the government. And somehow, my insurance score on the new house is perfectly fine, but on the old house is very bad. And, it’s the government’s fault.

    “Mr. Agent”, I said, that is simply preposterous. Mr. Agent chuckled.

    But what the heck, as large parts of the population are completely ready to accept all government as bad, why not take it to the next step, and address any and all complaints as the fault of the government. And train personnel to go there first. What the heck, it might work!!

    1. Alan the Drummer

      Let’s give people more credit, they see the Government as being bought with billions from special interests. With all the doomsday scenarios and paranoia out there, solutions will be hard to come by, but are nearly obvious.

    2. Nathanael

      Wait a sec, they’re raising your rates on the old house you’re planning to sell? Geez, might be cheaper just to drop the insurance and hire a security guard for the interim period before it sells.

  16. PQS

    “Now, too often, when Shit Happens, it’s often treated as an opportunity to wring more profit out of the deal.”

    Or as an opportunity to punish the contractor for “not knowing” about hidden conditions or unexpected changes in order to pad the Owner’s bottom line.

    I see this All the Time in commercial construction. The deals are so tight that even on a $300K project I’m looking for a few hundred dollars to provide some cushion for the unforseens. No owner will entertain a change lightly, yet they don’t want to pay architects to fully design plans. Then when the inevitable happens, there are recriminations and anger all around – as though the contractor is just using the situation to make money. (As is the paltry 5 or 10% fee on a change would somehow make a difference.) And every owner these days seems to think that the contractor is making out like a bandit – even when we show them our books and tell them our margins are in the single digits.

    I blame the obsession with quarterly profits that drives the whole machine to insanity. THe Owner’s Project Managers underprice the projects to make their Lords happy, the Contractors go in low in order to get the work, then when reality intrudes, nobody is happy. If the Lords had the faintest idea how things actually work in the Real World, they wouldn’t insist on Low Bids and even Lower Budgets. (In fact, 15 years ago when I worked for Large Multinational Corp as an Owner’s Rep, we always took the middle bid – less potential for problems and a more defensible position to Upper Management.)

    And I don’t see even the slightest improvement in the next five years.

  17. ep3

    ” when in some cases, the decline of the organization is partly due to its some of its members withdrawing rather than pressuring it to shape up”

    yves, i know it wasn’t necessarily the point of your post. but i want to delve into a little this idea that people are leaving little churches for mega churches over various views. I grew up in a church that went from very small (50 ppl) to 500+. There is a church here in the area that numbers 10k and is a well known mega church. And to take a second to give some background on that church, a large group of it’s congregation left and founded another mega church across town, supposedly severing ties. I don’t know why they did. But a church is no different than any other institution. If certain ppl want power in an organization and they don’t get it, yet they have a strong following, they are inclined to leave and take followers with them and start new somewhere else. but my point in writing is that I think people leave their local church for the mega church because of all the shiny new toys that a mega church has. the small local church doesn’t have expensive sound systems and light shows. the heating doesn’t work right. the pews aren’t comfortable. but the mega church has fancy tvs and plush carpet. and then in your community you can brag that you are a member of the fancy mega church, not that poor run down church with no members. i think if we looked deep enough at everything, we eventually get back to money/wealth/power being the reason for most everything that happens in our world, from locally to worldly.

    1. Jean

      I wanted to add that all is NOT well with all of the evangelical megachurches. Google First Family Church, Jerry Johnston, for a sad saga from my own community. Visibly notable on the national scene, see Robert Schuller, Crystal Cathedral.

      1. F. Beard

        I wanted to add that all is NOT well with all of the evangelical megachurches. Jean

        Let me guess? Cause they are deeply in debt?

        1. Nathanael

          Mostly because the leaders of most of the megachurches are crooks straight up. Eventually the scandals come to light.

  18. Middle Seaman

    Should trust today be defined the same way it was defined 50 years ago. The original article seems so. I am far from sure.

    Several major social events took place since JFK and LBJ. We lost Vietnam and paid a huge toll in lives, riches and a national trauma. We live now in an affluent society. This society is more dynamic, less compact, has different values, physical achievements are highly prized. The Internet has opened things up, connected family, friends and strangers faster, better and in a more complex way.

    Trust is not blind anymore. Institutions find it more difficult to hide and therefore trust in them was replaced with evaluation and dynamism.


    1. steelhead23

      I like your comment. Perhaps what I lament is merely the passing of time and the inexorable changes that wars and technological change bring. Still, I want to think that our government, from pols to bureaucrats, are faithfully working for the 99. Rebuilding that trust is going to take some time. Also, the fact that so little has been done to rebuild the trust Bush and others destroyed adds to my deep disappointment with Obama. He had such promise….

  19. chitown2020

    Maybe the American people are sick of paying for massive fraud and corruption and are finally waking up and realizing we’ve all been had. The system is rigged in favor of the financial criminals and that is leading to a totalitarian regime. They screwed all of us by secrets, lies and deception and they all got stinking richer from it, and created a megaopoly off of our backs. Time to walk out of the show state by state. If the people refuse to participate in their own robbety the States will have no choice. As long as we keep paying, conforming and complying we are paying for our own demise. For example, in Chicago, Mayor Daley stated before he handed the reigns over to the Rahmfather that there will be a $155 billion dollar property tax increase by the year 2015 to pay for ALL OF THE MISSING POLICEMENS and FIREMENS PENSION MONEY. Our property taxes are right now still at the bubble price. There hasn’t been a property tax revolt yet because they are spreading the debt around but, its coming. The quadrillion in fraud debt created by these FED banks and all of the other missing money that these corrupt politicians stole can never be repaid.

  20. b.

    Kinda missing the point here and (National Journal) there. The most important relationships are with the law, and with elected government. Moreover, the most important aspect of these is the relationship with the very idea – freedom being the acknowledgement of necessity – of these institutions and concepts. Hence “rule of men” and “government the problem, not the solution” are the msot fundamental threats to any social fabric. If half of the country does not vote, it has no trust in the election in question. If every election has such a low turnout, the citizens have no trust in the very idea of elections. Irrelevant, rigged, corrupt – no matter the perception, the result it the same, and self-fulfilling. It might suit NJ to go tribal, nuclear (family) and small town, but the social fabric is tearing on a continental scale, with the major fault line straight through the hot spot epicenter of DC.

    A few footnotes:
    The destruction of the social fabric at higher levels ultimately destroys even the place-based foundations – job loss inducing relocation. We live in the day of the blue/white collar migrant worker.

    And this is telling repug BS: “people sometimes barter on eBay rather than bow to big corporations”. What’s next, people revolt against the financial industry by using PayPal?

  21. Yojimbo

    This website has devolved into a hyperventilating, utopian collectivist rant.

    Yes the system is rotten to the core. But your pie in the sky, silver bullet egalitarian faux-solutions are probably counterproductive.

    NC would be far more effective if it limited itself to regulating and reigning in the out-of-control financial predators.

    Instead the site has become a talking shop for disaffected effete advocates of an impossibly egalitarian ideal society.

    NC is becoming less relevant by the day…..

    Wider the scope…less the effect….

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      In case you missed it, we lost that battle in March 2009. You are pretty deluded to think that anything outside of a sea change in the political climate will make a difference. Go read Simon Johnson’s The Quiet Coup. then we might have an intelligent conversation.

    2. jsmith

      You’re right, the whole system is corrupt yet we should totally undermine ourselves by only tinkering around the edges and dealing with political “realities” as they are defined by – surprise, surprise – the very people who sit at the apex of said corrupt system!


      I guess you’re not aware that it was the very real and rising popularity of socialism and communism – aka, threats to the system – that gave rise to many of the reforms initiated during the New Deal, right?

      Nah, you probably don’t.

      Wonder how all those social democracies sprang up all over Europe post WWII?

      It just couldn’t have been because a large number of people were advocating for entirely socialist/communist economies could it?

      Nah, I’m sure it just happened by magic.

      Lemme help you out. If there is no threat/alternative to a system, that system is not going to change.

      So, people advocating for alternative systems – yes, vast, vast changes – are actually trying to help YOU out even though you seem to be oblivious to said assistance.

      Now if you don’t want to listen, then you’d better sit up and beg because your masters have another treat for you.

    3. Aquifer

      Yo! jimbo,

      “Yes the system is rotten to the core. …. NC would be far more effective if it limited itself to regulating and reigning in the out-of-control financial predators.”

      Hmmm, regulating and reigning in a rotten to the core system – sounds like a rather smelly idea, the stench’ll get ya every time. If the system is rotten to the core there is nothing to “regulate” – gotta throw it in the compost bin ..

      Bur aside from the fact that NC itself can’t regulate or reign in the system, but can only expose the rotting carcass, it seems to me that if all any site does is expose the rot without discussing ways to clean it out, it does its readers a disservice …. “yeah, life sucks, but TS, suck it up, and oh yeah, here’s (yet) another example of how life sucks” gets kind of redundant, boring, and even numbing after awhile, doncha think? Far too many “progressive” sites are stuck in this mire, IMO …

      “NC is becoming less relevant by the day…..”

      Au contraire – to the extent it fleshes out alternatives to the sucko system we have, it becomes more relevant by the day.

      “Wider the scope…less the effect…”

      Well i suppose that is true for those who prefer to stick to the shadows in Plato’s cave – 3 dimensions in full color in a 360 degree world can be a bit overwhelming, but hang in there man – it’s worth it ….

    4. Cliff notes

      Shorter Yojimbo: Egalitarian egalitarian egalitarian.

      You mean equalitarian, you moron. You can’t even do old-time red-baiting right.

      Executive summary Yojimbo: Nyah nyah nyah.

  22. kevinearick

    Marginal Utility: King Cnut’s Viral Infection

    You have intelligent, capable engineers caught in the empire prison. Work your way back to community character, to the global IC chip, which has replaced the US Constitution, as the babysitter keeping the majority busy, pushing the rock up the hill to the cliff. Once it rolls over, roll out quicker than the empire can react, which isn’t difficult given that it is consumed by volatility mitigation. The minorities together are far greater than the artificial majority operating the empire.

    Yes; the Internet is the latest railroad, which the empire is seeking to employ again for vertical integration. Yes; books are the candied bait, and Apple kills many birds with one stone by the example of eliminating alternative access. The Supreme Court is the only circuit breaker protecting individual sovereignty, by design. At the end of the day, you have the content of your character, aggregated.

    Jobs requiring a college education do pay more than those requiring a HS education on average, but the data only reflects those ushered into the jobs, not everyone with a college education, nor does it measure profit. Take a look at the characteristics of those granted jobs and the recycling ratios in their event horizons. What the world is watching is the Fed priming the pump with no main supply, burning it up with each iteration, on a stage built for the occasion. We replaced military economic activity with education economic activity, with the expected results.

    Draw a line across a sheet of paper. From any point on that line, draw a pyramid underneath it. Draw several pyramids side by side with their bases meeting. Draw another line under those pyramids. Draw a set of inverted pyramids under that line directly beneath the other pyramids. What you now see are diamonds, side by side. On a separate sheet, draw a pyramid, and copy the first figure inside the pyramid. Place an eye above the pyramid.

    What you are looking at are family lines, with windows of opportunities and threats, opening and closing DNA NPV. The couple at the root, the tip of the pyramid (Abraham), is extremely wealthy, because assets may be expected to accumulate through generations. At the new roots you will find the labor superintendents, so the empire desperately seeks to identify and liquidate them as early as possible, through income misdirection. To do so, it must control the rules of capital formation, all the way back through Family Law, state preemption, to eliminate due process.

    Contraception is most often counter-productive, until gravity requirements are met. Intelligent abstention provides the best results, but, if you check your History of Tribes, you will find many effective alternatives. You do not need, nor do you want, a government pharmaceutical solution, which will only serve the empire, for obvious reasons. The empire can only exist if babies have babies, under government administration.

    Labor generates/forms capital, and capital must have labor to perform. Therein rests the looking glass equilibrium, which may be moved by labor at will. Just swap out the economic activity virus, throw the key down in the room, and shut the door behind you, when you are ready to ignite the economy at your new location. The universe will automatically change the lock on the door, adding variables faster than the empire can algebraically reduce them.

    They don’t want to sell you books. They want to sell you empire projectors. That’s the only way their model works, on the assumption that all roads lead to empire. Competing for a place in line to its sorting machine is for derivative robots.

    A virus is a virus is a virus. Galileo didn’t turn lead into gold with an Apple by accident; Irony is to God as judo is to physics; Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee; and “please don’t throw me into that briar patch.”

    Don’t enable the empire gang or program its black box, to eliminate privacy, and expect to feel secure without another cop around. Real labor doesn’t want security to slow it down at the margin. In the unknown we trust, for capital cannot fathom its depth.

  23. D Lavalle

    Muncie was the site of the sociological study, Middletown, published in 1929, followed by a less intensive study by the same authors done during the Depression. It closely examines the class structure using techniques of social anthropology, and highlights the sharp division between the working class and the business class. As I remember the micro-society of Middletown was divided into five classes.

    What an eyeopener to me and two high school friends in the 50s, as we tried to fit our small town in Michigan into the Middletown framework 1890 to 1925, and the analysis stood me in good stead in the 60s and anti-war movement, and everywhere I’ve lived since then. Change is relative to time and place, for sure, but seems to be on a repeat as economic swings repeat no matter where you are. The divisions between business and workers haven’t changed yet – I wait. Academics and reporters also repeatedly return to Muncie to take another look at the “typical” American town – as we see in this case.

    I thank you all for your input here – nc has become my daily companion in this time of economic crisis as my edification (due to you!) continues to reassure and delight me. Thank you, Yves, for providing this space to us.

  24. vlade

    Building trust is expensive – it pays, but over long term. Over a certain size of possible relationships (not to mention transitory nature of some), building trust becomes too expensive unless you have very strong mechanisms that work even with strangers (as shame works in Japanese society say).

    Since we’ve worked very hard to erode the self-same correcting mechanisms (i.e. the said shame) – often even for good reasons – we’ve outgrown what our society can reasonable maintain.

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Liberal society is very expensive to maintain in a working order (and trust is only one of the facets that break, albeit a very important one). It has a low requirement on society enforced discipline (discipline defined as willingness to give up one’s immediate goals/satisfation for either long term or common goals/satisfaction), but that contra-intuitively means that for it to work, the participants have to have quite high high self-discipline.

    It’s really similar to teams – good teams have little formal discipline (are run “liberaly”), but individual members of the team have high self-discipline.

  25. Schofield

    As ever human beings find it hard to understand the need to balance the ego-centric with the moral-centric in how they lead their lives. Right now in the US the scales are tilted heavily in favour of the ego-centric.

  26. rotter

    “The article describes the result as a deserved or at least understandable loss of faith in institutions; the comments on the piece extol it as proof that government sucks.”

    This is the core and the essence of the wildly succesful strategy “the 1%” have been using to crush the middle class and almost everyone else since the late 60’s. Destroy the institutions that the people built and funded over decades and centuries even, by defunding and administrative monkey wrenching and keep up the slander day and night, until they no longer serve anyone effectively, then use this “evidence” of malfunction to create even more ill will to do more damage. A negative feedback loop.

    1. Wahrheit

      Yep. Dysfunction and cynicism are not bugs, they are features of the system of controls.

      We see the fruits manifested in numerous ways: the shamefully low turnout at the polls, the willingness to indulge in the “both sides do it” mental laziness in response to the kabuki warfare amongst the duopoly, and the proliferation of armed vigilantism that is delivering a death blow to the civil compact in which citizens grant a monopoly on the use of force to their government. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

      Delegitimization of our social constructs is a prerequisite in achieving passive public acquiescence to the emergence of tyranny. That the Republic is crumbling at its base is not a result of benign neglect. It is caused by the affirmative reality of an inverted totalitarianism.

  27. Heretic

    Good Article. I would posit that the source of he deficit is ”trustworthiness ”… the essential essence of all healthy functioning/evolving society. When trustworthiness breakdown, and people are hurt, the cold logic of predation starts to grow, and scelerois and decline set in. Eventually common society breaks down, and the people rely on tribal links, gold, and Kalashnikov to survive.

  28. Hugh

    It isn’t just trust but money. Public institutions and infrastructure are decaying because they are not being properly funded, and the funds aren’t there because so much of the country’s wealth is in the hands of rich and they know how to make sure very little of it flows back for the public good. As someone here once pointed out, 80% of Americans are living on 7% of the country’s wealth, and that one fact explains everything.

  29. Noni Mausa

    One real oddity regarding trust has to do with the passage of certain laws and bestowing of certain powers on authorities.

    The whole secret prisons and war on terrorism complex has arisen and still stands on a bedrock of unspoken trust. The ordinary American might not say so or even think so, but by his acceptance of them he silently states that he trusts the police, the military, the CIA, the FBI etc never to target him or his loved ones. He may not trust those powers to always correctly persecute others, but he doesn’t really care so long as he believes he won’t be targeted.

    Mostly, his trust won’t be disproved, because a regime has to be pretty awful before it targets a large enough fraction of the population for everyone to lose their trust. This is rather like the trust people have in their health insurance — catastrophic health problems are rare so most people never find out if it would have covered them or not.

    Another oddity — most government services work just fine, and people accept them without comment. It’s the rare breakdowns that get all the ink.


  30. Aquifer

    Thanx, Yves, great essay ….

    “many people see their relationships with institutions as less durable, and hence it’s easier to abandon them rather than try to fix them…. the decline of the organization is partly due to its some of its members withdrawing rather than pressuring it to shape up.”

    Seems to me that our culture has been increasingly built on the concept not only that nothing is durable, but durability is not even something that should be prized. Even “permanent ink” has been replaced by bits and bytes that can be deleted at the click of a mouse – ironically to be “forever” ensconced in cyberspace where their “durability” is more likely to be a detriment than an asset.

    The commercial virtues of planned obsolescence and the “plasticity” of life have embedded the ideas of “temporary” and “utilitarian” as genetic components of all aspects of our lives – as the idea that objects are things we purchase, use, then throw away because they are either made to not be reparable or planned to be obsolete to the point of non-useability has permeated all other aspects of our lives, is it so surprising that it has crept into our human relationships as well? Broken? Don’t fix it, just throw it away and get a new one.

    “our traditional relationships had been place-based, … Place based relationships are durable whether you like it or not”

    When we moved off the farm into the cities or suburbs – “place” took on a new meaning – and when we gave up the locality of work for the glories of globalization, being attached to “place” was a luxury one could not afford; houses were not homes to plant roots in but places of temporary domicile, purchased with the eye toward being sold at any time ..

    I now live in the house I grew up and spent most of my life in – the family dog is buried in the back yard – my sense of “place” would be mocked by those who look down their noses at “suburbia”, but there are 60+ years of my “essence” here – the trees are part of me and i am nurturing a second generation of them, but i am considered “eccentric”, to be charitable …

    It seems to me that if we have lost a sense of place it is because we have come not to value it – come to let it go, and given it up too easily – come to accept an economic paradigm in which that very sense of place is disposable.

    So why trust? In this system, we don’t need to, in fact can’t, in fact shouldn’t even want to, “trust” anyone or anything to not “break” or “disappear”. Methinks “trust” and “sense of place” are interconnected, in a much more profound sense of “inter-connectivity” than social media can ever produce, and when the latter erodes, so does the former ….

    I am glad “remember (the) Maine” means something more than a sunken ship to you – don’t let it go …

  31. bluntobj

    This sounds more like “When belief in the system fades” rather than a trust “deficit” that can be rebuilt.

    Why would people rather leave than agitate for change in the organization? Take a look at what happens to those who “agitate” for meaningful change in their organizations, on the left OR on the right. They are destroyed, excoriated, and character assassinated.

    Good example on the right would be our favorite stone target: Sarah Palin. She actually started out bucking the system in an entrenched and corrupt republican party in Alaska. She was a threat to republican power. She was co-opted, put on a national stage, and thoroughly destroyed and discredited. End of threat.

    Magnify in so many small situations, from church board struggles, to local elections, to non-profits, government agencies, Business culture, etc. Change agents who lack a high level champion get slaughtered.

    Is it any wonder people don’t want to fight for change in their organization? The strategy they actually employ is opting out. They go elsewhere, and find that each place they go the corruption has penetrated. Their trust in institutions and organizations slowly fade, and like a lover
    who has been jilted too many times they refuse to extend trust again. Is this surprising?

    Most institutions, governments, and organizations overreach their capabilities, resources, costs, structure, etc. The historical solution has been collapse, destruction of those groups, and rebuilding from a basic level. When attempts to extend and prolong the overreach are made, the subsequent collapse is far worse.

    TL;DR version: Opting out of an overreaching group or group(s) is the only sane strategy for survival. Attempting to fix, extend, prolong, or affect change will only delay destruction, and guarantee that the individual will be destroyed along with it.

    1. Aquifer

      Well, you have a point – except that the tendency seems to be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of examining what core principles are worth digging out, washing off and hammering out the dents from, we just seem to say the hell with the whole thing – let us reinvent the wheel.

      i confess that i have reached the conclusion that there are some things that need to be tossed, like our current political duopoly, but that is only after patching and patching and patching to the point where the material is too threadbare to patch. In medicine there is a time to pull the plug – but not until, IMO it is quite clear that continued resuscitation is more damaging than healing.

      What can be preserved, what should be preserved, what can be fixed, what should be fixed, what can be replaced, what should be replaced, what can be tossed and what should be tossed, it seems to me, is the place the conversation should start; but if we decide something needs to be changed, then we should not desist from our efforts …

      I think you have a point about Palin – if discreditation is due, it should be on the basis of ideas, not person. We really do seem to have a hard time with that …..

  32. Jim

    On April 12 Philip Pilkington stated in a comment at 8:49 A.M “I ask you what is a progressive without a state?”

    Yves’s commentary today, on the issue of trust, seems to recognize that it is what she calls durable placed-based relationships that form the foundation of community life and perhaps, in my opinion, offers a new pathway out of our present morass. Yet her “progressive” theoretical lens seems to simultaneously cling to the strategic hope than somehow enlightened state/federal government policy, rather than a focus on community, is still the best political/organizational instrument to get us out of our present crisis.

    I have been and will continue to argue that it is now time for the “progressive community “ to give up on the modern state as the chosen instrument of our liberation–since it now works in collusion with the market and the national security apparatus, in an increasingly corrupt, antidemocratic and predatory manner.

    Instead we must now begin to seriously focus on the viability of local community reconstruction rather than “enlightened” state policy as an alternative strategic path through which we can eventually re-embed and restructure powerfully corrupt public and private institutions.

    1. Aquifer

      Could be wrong, of course, often am, but i don’t get the impression that it is an either/or from Yves point of view, but a combination of both – renewal of community AND reform of state … At least that’s the way i read her ..

      From my point of view, at least, i think one without the other is like a person cutting off one leg while attempting to stand – 2 will help you stand more “efficiently” and wind up on more solid footing, not to mention make it easier to “run” ….. :)

    2. F. Beard

      The Achilles Heel of Progressives is banking and money.

      You had best figure out how to implement them ethically or you are doomed to failure.

  33. LucyLulu

    As an interesting coincidence, Jon Huntsman was on Morning Joe today talking about this very topic. He said there are record numbers of voters who now declare themselves as unaffiliated, no longer wanting to take part in the political duopoly, and when he talks regularly on college campuses, lack of trust is the number one issue. Nobody in either party is addressing this issue which he sees as requiring needing to be addressed in three areas: political reform, tax reform, and banking reform. He had recently made an observation about how if you criticize political parties in the US though, they kick you out and said that was what they did in communist China……. and that was the origin of him being quoted in the media as comparing the US to communist China.

    For a Republican, Huntsman is remarkably sane (overlooking his endorsement of Romney, after all he IS a politician, and probably wants to run again and get GOP backing). Maybe that was his fatal flaw (sanity)? Perhaps even a reader here on NC?

  34. Fiver

    A moment’s consideration of a newborn suggests trust is the default position, and violation of trust is what we learn – and that we’d otherwise all still be sucking pond scum.

    While the breakdown of trust is now evident at every level – no more so than in the now-insane “security” complex – it’s been a process over decades, with elite character corroded in a series of broad, increasingly serious, top-down failures (Vietnam, for instance) the consequences of which infected the middle and lower classes both morally and ethically, driving them variously to despair, anger, grief, or terror but above all that crippling, gnawing impotence which eats the soul and ends with “I don’t give a damn. Not anymore”.

    The “left” in the post-WWII US never conceived the simple formula “From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs” as other than alien, no matter how Christian its sentiment, even in the silence of their own thoughts. Yet that’s the core injustice, and increasingly, threat – elites (legal, financial, military, scientific, corporate, etc.)that constitute maybe 10% of the population are now all-but removed from the trials and tribulations of the rest of society, having created their own affluence/information/influence economy nested in and operating the larger whole. This is the world they built.

    That immoral, unethical, amoral, deeply aggressive, criminal “ability” and “talent” are winning traits in the world our wizards have created must give us pause to ask: just who was this stupendous global economic/military machine designed FOR, exactly? And why are they all racing out to buy umpty generations of cellphones and other devices when 50 million people are on food stamps? Does anyone see the public interest anywhere in this slavery to the perpetually “new” forever at the expense of tackling truly difficult problems? I can’t.

    In the US, “TO each according to his ability” is untouchable, as it is the real basis of the increasingly skewed wealth distributions and divergence of goals of those with real wealth and power vs society as a whole hidden in plain sight as essentially the “natural order”, including the astronomical asymmetric Gains for Brains (Gates, Jobs et al – the so-called “knowledge economy”) now going to the shrinking portion of the population actually capable of “managing” anything in this increasingly complex set of systems within systems within systems to their own or anyone else’s benefit.

    How many on the “left” in the US are today willing to even contemplate severing the link between ability and income/wealth, making how hard one works and how well one acts the measure of worth? How many this very day think, no matter HOW much tougher it would be for “Me” to be a meatpacker, or prison guard, or cabbie or soldier, or drug peddler or homeless teen or….that it is nonetheless imperative that this educated, well-off, desk-job, middle class, nice guy named “Me” gets his raise and that house?

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