Building trust

Part of a collection of essays on TRUST by @futurepaul

Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

The best way to know if you can trust someone is if you’ve been able to trust them in the past. And you can build up from small things to larger. As Jesus points out, “it’s just this one little thing” is no valid excuse for being untrustworthy.

My expectation of you being faithful in the future is based on the present evidence I have of your faithfulness. Therefore it would be best for you to maximize that evidence in the here and now, in whatever opportunities you have to do so.

The gradual buildup of small trust to large trust reminds me a little bit of Mises’s regression theorem for the origin of money. As explained by Bob Murphy:

People value units of money because of their expected purchasing power; money will allow people to receive real goods and services in the future, and hence people are willing to give up real goods and services now in order to attain cash balances. Thus the expected future purchasing power of money explains its current purchasing power.

This “circular” foundation regresses all the way backward in time to whenever a monetary good simply was valued as a non-money commodity.

This leap to money-ness reminds me of Christianity’s “leap of faith.” In Christianity, a “leap of faith” is not a blind, uninformed trust. Rather, based on available evidence I may believe some things to be true about God, but the leap of faith means I will behave as if those things are true.

In Nick Szabo’s terms, I will make myself “vulnerable to” my conception of God. Thoughts about God are riskless, acting as if those thoughts are true is where the “faith” comes in.

The challenge and danger inherent in such a transition is perhaps why it’s called a “leap” rather than a “stroll” or “meander.”

The particulars of the leap is a hangup for some Austrian economics adherents who believe the regression theorem requires a physical commodity to underpin all money, and therefore Bitcoin can’t possibly qualify as money.

As Konrad Graf points out:

The task of economics is to help explain phenomena of the market. In this sense, if we see bitcoins functioning as a medium of exchange, all our theorems cannot make them go away and cease doing so… Our job as economic theorists is to figure out how, in what sense, and to what degree, this is happening, not whether it is.

It’s not adequate to treat all leaps of faith as irrational. Saying “don’t trust” and ending the sentence is not sufficient guidance because humans do trust, do “leap,” and cannot help from doing so.

“False doubt doubts everything except itself; with the help of faith, the doubt that saves doubts only itself.”

Our job as “trustooors” is to figure out:

  1. How
  2. In what sense
  3. To what degree

We trust.

Posted Sep 8, 2022