Trust and Trustworthiness

A few years ago I read an article about how awesome the Sweden was because it’s such a high trust society that all sorts of things are easy and convenient and efficient. He gave as an example that there were not turnstiles on the entrance to a train, there was merely a place where you’re supposed to scan your ticket but it didn’t get in the way of the flow people. He gave other examples of how much better life was because citizens were just trusted to do the right thing without any enforcement, and wondered how we can get people in the United States to be more trusting. I thought it very telling that he never once asked how to get people in the United States to be more trustworthy.

What I find especially interesting about this is that it’s an inversion from, approximately, ever serious classical view of virtue and its effects that you can find in any culture, at any time. Trust is a choice that other people make, and therefore you cannot control it. Trustworthiness, however, is entirely within your control, and therefore is the only thing to worry about. A man should strive, always, to be trustworthy. At the same time, he should never demand that people trust him, for how can anyone but him know that he is trustworthy? Thus the trustworthy man should always be willing to give guarantees, to give proofs of what he says, and in general to require as little trust from others as possible. To not require trust from others in no way diminishes his trustworthiness, so he is in no way the loser. A trustworthy man may accept when other decline to take his collateral, or to look up his proofs, because they trust him. A trustworthy man would not demand it, though.

This is especially true when the trustworthy man is dealing with a stranger. Since the trustworthy man goes to the trouble of being worthy of trust, he knows what signs there are that he is trustworthy, and therefore knows that the stranger has not seen any evidence of his trustworthiness.

This modern obsession with being trusted without first being trustworthy is indicative, I think, of how utterly childish moderns tend to be. It arises from wanting benefits without having put in the work. It wants benefits without putting in the work because it fails to consider things from anyone else’s perspective. It doesn’t really take the existence of the rest of the world seriously. This is excusable in a child because they simply don’t know enough about the world to take it seriously, in the sense of being able to consider how it works in their absence. An adult, however, should know that there are real consequences if the people who ride a train do not pay for tickets to ride it.

Perhaps the great problem of our time is that so few people grow up, not even late.

The one good thing to say about that is that people who have not grown up when they should have still have the ability to grow up. It’s not as good as doing it when they should have, of course, but they do still have the ability. Which means that the trick is figuring out how to help them actually do it.


(Curiously, though it does not bear on the main point, a Swedish friend said that not checking the validity of your ticket is only in Stockholm, the rest of Sweden verifies your ticket.)

2 thoughts on “Trust and Trustworthiness

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    IMO There’s two elements in “Trustworthiness”.

    As an example, one can Trust a person to never Lie (ie what he says is True in his opinion) but what that person says Can’t Be Trusted because what he thinks is True is not based in Fact.

    Of course, you might be able to convince that person that what he believes isn’t Truth but there seems to be no point in talking with a known Liar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. Part of being trustworthy is to not merely say what one believes to be true, but to also take the effort to make sure that it actually is true before saying it. There are people I wouldn’t trust statistics from no matter how sure I am they believe the statistics because I am sure of how little work went into making sure that they’re true and meaningful, and people I will accept them from without question because I am sure of how much work went into making sure that they were true and meaningful. (to give an example.)

      Liked by 1 person

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