Trust simply means you will act predictably with good cheer and do what is expected without malice. Trust is thought to be the first step in psychosocial development—when the infant knows that it is in good hands. If we lose our basic trust, it’s very hard to regain it later. Trust is something more than what we rely on in a relationship. Trust can be something that is betrayed, but reliance on someone to do some thing should only result in disappointment when it does not occur automatically. But sometimes we can become confused about whether we should feel betrayed or simply disappointed in the actions of others.
Social trust is a measure of our belief that others speak honestly to us or about us, but also with fairness and benevolence. Failures of social trust may be more readily forgiven if they are just mistakes—that is, when someone just loses track of himself in a quickly correctable mistake. If someone was deliberately unfair or showed a demonstrable lack of benevolence toward another, social trust is lost as the act is usually interpreted as having occurred as a result of malicious intent. When this happens between people, they begin not to like one another.
There is much interest currently in social trust, most likely because it appears to be something we are losing—and losing rapidly.
Societies need social trust because it is something they must actually show preliminary to making a decision that is likely to be widely accepted. Without mutual trust we cannot really make decisions that stick, and we are often paralyzed by inaction. We cannot decide a matter of mutual importance unless trust is granted. No decision is then taken. Trust, indeed, helps rid us of indecision.
In economics, trust can affect both the cost and occurrence of transactions. Trust enables cooperation in transactions—increased business activity, employment and prosperity. Trust is universally regarded as a form of social capital—and in that sense social trust enormously benefits the economy and the feeling of well-being of its members. Quality of life erodes.
With increasing mutual antagonistic adjustments made between conservative right wing elements and progressive left wing elements in the political system social trust is eroded, and attempts to make simple decisions about how to govern are thwarted. In the extreme, no decision, even a simple one, can be made. Unhappily, we may have to come to a point where there is no basis for a mutually acceptable and happy outcome. There’s no marriage possible between the apparently incompatible ideas of the political right and the political left. They are mutually exclusive in the absence of trust.
The group in the political middle (Independents) is less politically strident, but tends to be unable to accept the most extreme views of both right and left. The group that can push the right buttons of the independents could win them over. In America the government goes from Republican Party coalition to Democratic Party coalition with some independents joining into the winning coalition. This is a process that is becoming difficult to sustain.
We are likely beyond the point where the most strident members of the two major political parties can be sent to their rooms, and made to reside there until they can reemerge able to once again demonstrate sufficient civility toward one another to rebuild our bonds of social trust. If that is the case we may await a suitable organization to emerge from the ranks of independents in America, one capable of rebuilding our social capital and governing the country.