• Trust

    Mr. Lucker, one of my high school history teachers, taught that human institutions are built on trust. That sounds rather banal until you think it through. In fact, trust is really all there is, apart from perhaps Cartesian self-evidence.

    In the final years of the George W. Bush Administration there was some paranoid fringe speculation that Bush would not willingly relinquish power. There is empirical evidence that it was “fringe” and its very nature was speculative. But upon what basis do I call this notion “paranoid”? I considered it so because I believed it to be a very unlikely outcome. I did not think Bush and his advisers so irrational as to attempt an illegal hold on power. At some level I trusted they would not, even though it was within the feasible set of options.

    Likewise, I trust that Obama won the 2008 presidential election. I cannot prove he did. I merely consider it so unlikely he did not–the conspiracy required too great–that I am willing to take on faith that the election results are as reported.

    There is so much more that I trust. In fact my ability to function and my mental health require trust in nearly all things. If I did not trust the floor to hold my bed I would not sleep at night. To the extent I had any concern about the structural integrity of my home I had it inspected before purchase. I trust the inspector, or I trust the credentialing organization that certified him, or the references he provided. After due diligence there is only trust.

    If I did not trust the vast majority of drivers to be in some sense “safe” I could not use the roadways. If I did not trust the manufacturer of my automobile or the mechanic who maintains it I could not use the vehicle. Likewise, I trust that no harm will come to me in the ways in which I use Turbo Tax, electronic banking, or Facebook. That is not to say I trust them fully and without certain verification. But I only verify so much. After a “reasonable” amount I mentally check the “trust” box.

    At some level, or to some extent, I trust the air I breath (carbon monoxide detectors installed), the water I drink (Brita filtered, for what it is worth), and the food I eat (“appropriately” prepared).

    I trust I’ll still be here tomorrow and will receive the love of my family. Without either assumption I could not write another sentence. I’d be petrified with concern.

    Of course I trust my own reason, that my degree of trust is sensible and necessary. Yet, I sense that trust is more than reason. It is beyond reason and shares elements of feeling. Perhaps trust has to satisfy both a test of the mind and the heart. Reason is a necessary but not sufficient condition for trust. Though it may be true that I think therefore I am, it feels no less true that I feel therefore I trust.

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    • Good points all; I’m enjoying your series on why health care in America costs more than we expect (see, I’ve been reading those disclaimers at the end) and your other explanations of the budget. As someone who often becomes confused when macroeconomics is discussed, I find these type of blogs especially helpful. This particular concept of trust is one I wrote about back in August, regarding HIT adoption in the medical world ). I’d be interested if anyone here at this blog has any thoughts on that subject or the specific instance of the HITECH legislation.

    • My apologies, I now see that Aaron Carroll is the one writing the “What makes the US health care system so expensive” series. No matter how many times I think I’ve read over what I’m going to post, I often have that “oops” moment after clicking “submit.”