Trust Me

trust-and-fear

In a recent episode of Freakonomics Radio, entitled “Trust Me“, Stephen Dubner looked at the decline in trust that many countries were experiencing. This was specifically measured by asking people “do you think most people can be trusted?”

Building this up is important because the most trust you can build, the more social capital people have. This is important because countries where people have higher social capital do better, and also on a personal level as people who have more social capital live significantly longer. As Susan Pinker teaches us it is one of the biggest factors in life expectancy.

Some countries have very high trust levels. Sweden for example. Some of this is explained by the welfare state, but perhaps the biggest factor is the homogeneity of Swedish society. That is to say, everyone looks the same. People trust people who look similar to them. Conversely, when researchers looked at what makes people cheat, cheating across racial lines was a major factor.

One option then would be to resist the diversification of society, join the BNP and insist Britain is just for white people. But aside from the fact that many of us would detest such an attitude, it also ends badly: countries with a lack of diversity are less creative.

Therefore, we need to find a way that we can continue to build trust and social capital in a world that is becoming increasingly more diverse.

How do we do this? By finding ways to connect people across different communities: military service, university, sports teams, etc. University is a great example. You are thrown into a hall of residence where you meet a diverse group of people and build relationships with them. You then internalise the skill of trusting and it stays with you for the rest of your life. This is reflected in the fact that graduates have more social capital than non-graduates.

University is not the only place you can build such trust of course. If you are in the UK, you may have seen adverts for the National Citizen Service. The NCS was introduced in 2011 as a way to get young people to build these skills.

It is also worth noting that these barriers break down over time. There was a time when an Italian person and an Irish person was a “mixed marriage”. Then a black person and and a white person was a “mixed marriage”. Now it is just a marriage. Where possible, it makes sense to speed this process up.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 19th, 2016 at 10:55 am and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.