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What is trust worth? A poll by the General Social Survey indicates that about 1/3 of Americans trust each other. This is a big step downward from a 1972 survey that indicated that about ½ of Americans trust each other. Around 2/3rds say that “you can’t be too careful” dealing with others. Trust is trending downward and this should concern a number of people.
Trust can bring some wonderful things in society. The entire economic system and social structure depends on trust. Trust that if you work hard you will receive a reward, trust that people will treat you fairly, and trust that you can walk down the street without injury. Trust is the glue that binds all of society into one neat socio-economic package.
It is hard for people to determine what leads to more or less trust. We can say that its base is a whole host of reasons that may include opportunity, systematic justice, culture, interpersonal relationships, family life or even world events. It is a culmination of these factors that helps create a perspective of life and others.
For businesses the concept that 67% of people put little faith in those who swipe their cards should be concerning. Thinking about how trust is necessary in commerce it should become apparent that those businesses that do not maintain a high level of integrity can be easily punished in the market. Let a card theft go viral and see what happens.
For politicians it is even worse. A total of 81% say they put trust in their national political leaders some of the time and 15% most of the time. If you are a leader, this should concern you a little. Just like trust is the foundation of an economy, it is also the foundation of governance. Policies must meet the needs of the people and the betterment of America’s future without any outside or political considerations.
When I think of trust, I like to look at those societal projects that took generations to build. The people who worked on them had generational trust and cross-tribal trust. Stonehenge started in 2,700 BC and seemed to have developed over a thousand years. Even though its background is hazy and in dispute, historians do believe that many different tribes of people were involved in the whole process as a potential peace and unity initiative. If nothing else, each generation should trust that the generation before them has interest in their betterment.