A Matter Of Trust

My post last night that touched on the 10th Amendment provoked some interesting discussions — largely driven by liberal commenter Bruce Henry. Bruce had a lot of interesting things to say, and got me thinking even further on the matter — more specifically, what differentiates what I believe from what Bruce believes.


The fundamental question that divides us seems to be, “do you trust your fellow Americans, by and large, to do the right thing?”


I find myself, as I often do, turning to Winston Churchill and his never-ending line of quotable remarks. One that has always stuck with me was his observation that “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”


When I see someone buying cold medicine, I don’t think “there’s a potential meth dealer.” When I hear about someone owning a gun, I don’t think “there’s a potential murderer.”


I am reminded of the apocryphal tale out of some feminist college class, where all men were described as “potential rapists.” When one man objected, he was told that he was… er… “properly equipped” to be a rapist; the only think lacking was the putting of that potential to use. He replied by asking if it was equally fair to refer to all women — especially the female professor who had made the “potential rapists” remark as “potential prostitutes.”


By and large, I trust my fellow Americans. I trust them to respect the traffic laws, and not crash into me or run me off the road or run me down on a crosswalk. I trust them not to come up behind me and knock me over the head and rob me.


My trust, of course, isn’t blind. I lock my home, I lock my car, and I don’t walk around with money hanging out of my pockets. After all, these fellow citizens of mine are the ones who elected Obama. They won’t always make the right choices.


But because some Americans made some wrong choices, should we strip Obama voters of their right to vote again? (I think I can name a few people who’d agree with that proposition.) Hell, no. We learn from our mistakes. And just because some Americans can’t be trusted doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trust all our fellow citizens.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run to the store. And on that run, I’ll buckle up, obey traffic laws, not run down any pedestrians, and not buy any ingredients to make drugs.


Honest. You can trust me.

A Failure Of Democracy
Republicans Keep Control of Wisconsin Senate
  • Boyd Garrett

    But did you take your gun with you, so you can not use it to kill that guy who cut you off?

  • Jeff Blogworthy

    That’s an interesting take. I’ve always considered liberalism too trusting of the innate “goodness” of mankind. I identify with the traditional view of man’s depravity and necessary reliance on the grace of God, as was the founders’ view. The power of man must be limited because he cannot be trusted to rule justly on any consistent basis. Here is an interesting contradiction. Leftists say they believe humankind is inherently good yet, when given power, they feel they must micromanage all behavior and modes of education. The right (for the most part) says that humankind is inherently flawed, but is far more trusting of individuals to direct their own destiny. Hmm. Brain hurting. Going away to think…

    I just recalled this quote from the book I’m reading currently:

    The utopian is optimistic about man,
    pessimistic about particular men and women: “I think I know man,”
    Rousseau sadly wrote, “but as for
    men, I know them not.” The anti-utopian is pessimistic, or at least
    disabused, about man; this forgiving pessimism frees him to be
    optimistic about individuals. — Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse, by Roger Kimball

    Kimball seems to say that pessimism about mankind in general frees us to readily recognize and celebrate the good in individuals.

    • Anonymous

      You’re making my brain hurt a little, too, Jeff. Here’s a loophole: I didn’t say “mankind,” I said “fellow Americans.”

      That might be enough of a loophole…


      • Anonymous

        To “Serve Americans” must be the name of that book under Obama’s arm.

    • Anonymous

      Odd, I never thought they trusted mankind, but rather they trusted government to manage mankind properly.

      • Of course, when you point out that the people in government whom they want to manage mankind, are just men too, they get a little defensive.

      • Jeff Blogworthy

        Government is like Soylent Green. It’s people.

        Trusting in the “goodness” of mankind leads to totalitarianism:

        Johnny is a good boy. I know he is. Because Johnny is a good boy, he will selflessly share his toys with all the other boys and girls. But Johnny doesn’t want to share. The toys belong to him. He’s still a good boy, mind you. He’s just having a momentary lapse. Johnny must be “made” to share. Johnny will be shown the way. If Johnny remains intransigent, then he must be punished. Sooner or later, Johnny will learn. Inside Johnny seethes with resentment. Sometimes, he may lash out. But don’t worry. Johnny will be kept in line.

        The alternative recognizes Johnny’s inherent selfishness and capitalizes on it. Johnny’s ownership and right to decide what to do with his own property is respected. Johnny is taught the value of respecting others’ rights as well, since he is able to recognize property rights as interdependent. Johnny quickly surmises that perhaps “sharing” could be seen as a kind of barter. If Johnny shares with others, then others will be inclined to share with him. Mutual benefit ensues. Transactions are voluntary. There is no resentment. There are two winners every time.

  • PBunyan

    I think in most cases it just simple projection.  

    For example, if a leftist owned a food factory, they’d cut every corner they could to maximize profits and not care in the least if they killed off a few customers.  Or if they owned a gun they’d go around shooting whomever they pleased.  And of course they’d all be stoners.  So they think we all need massive, oppressive government to protect the rest of us from themselves.

    • Frank O’Connell

      >>>”For example, if a leftist owned a food factory, they’d cut every corner
      they could to maximize profits and not care in the least if they killed
      off a few customers. ”

      I didnt realize that there was a Hobbit comic book in release. Congratulations for capturing the pre-release details.

      • Anonymous


        There are a lot of things you don’t know, Frank. You don’t have to keep reminding us how mind-bogglingly stupid you are, we know it quite thoroughly.


  • PBunyan

    And here’s the big hole in the left’s argument for total government regulation:  The government is made up of people who are just as fallable and potentially corrupt as all people are. Actually, I’d argue that politicians and government officials are far more likely to be corrupt.

  • Jeff Blogworthy

    Here is more of the context of the quote I posted earlier. Kimball is discussing Raymond Aron’s book “The Opiate of the Intellectuals” (Marxism.) Aron points out that “the Fall” is the reason that capitalism works and communism fails. Communism fails because human selflessness is impossible. Great stuff.

    Following Adam Smith and other classical liberals, Aron looked to the imperfections of man for the fuel to mitigate imperfection. Unlike the Marxist, the classical liberal regards men as “basically imperfect and resigns himself to a system where the good will be the result of countless actions and never the object of a conscious choice. In the last resort, he subscribes to the pessimism which sees politics as the art of creating the conditions in which the vices of men contribute to the good of the State.”

    Aron readily acknowledged that this prosaic model lacks the grandeur of utopia.

     “Doubtless the free play of initiative, competition between buyers and sellers, would be unthinkable if human nature had not been sullied by the Fall. The individual would give of his best in the interests of others without hope of recompense, without concern for his own interests.”

    But that “if” issues an unredeemable promise. Aron’s twofold task was to remind us, first, that there is no human nature unsullied by the Fall and, second, to suggest, as does orthodox Christianity, that what prophets of the absolute decry as a disaster was in fact a “fortunate fall,” a condition of our humanity. The utopian is optimistic about man, pessimistic about particular men and women: “I think I know man,” Rousseau sadly wrote, “but as for men, I know them not.” The anti-utopian is pessimistic, or at least disabused, about man; this forgiving pessimism frees him to be optimistic about individuals.

  • I’m reminded of Bill Whittle’s essay – the Web of Trust.


    It takes a few minutes to read – but it’s an eye-opener.  The thing is – you can’t legislate trust…

  • Anonymous

    People make mistakes.  They learn from those mistakes.  But not the liberal.  The liberal wants MORE time and MORE money.  That will always fix the problem.  And those who make mistakes should be “compensated” for those mistakes.  After all, we don’t want anyone to feel guilty or inadequate.

    • Anonymous


      But how can good intentions be a mistake?
      Can’t feel guilty or inadequate when your intentions are pure.

      This dodge from accountability provides them cover.

  • Anonymous

    I trust my community more than my government. When Hurricane Ike came through Houston, Texas in 2008 most of us 95% lost power for upwards of two weeks. That meant no burglar alarms, very low water pressure if any, etc. The community got together and helped each other out. Peaceful as can be. No murders, etc. That, in my opinion is what is wrong with centralized control. There is no “one size fits all” fix. Communities know what they need, they want to help. Humans, left alone will do much more good than harm. ww

    • Boyd Garrett

      I think you’re overlooking the point of Bill Whittle’s essay that JLawson linked: I seriously doubt that you’d have seen anywhere near that level of cooperation had it been Detroit, for instance, instead of Houston.

  • Anonymous

    I think the left believes in the goodness of man.They just believe in constantly defining what good means and making sure that everyone else follows that definition by law.

  •  Trust.

    The thing is – kids aren’t born with an innate sense of right or wrong. There’s no instinct to be kind, to be generous, to be self-controlled, helpful and sharing.  That has to be taught by the parents – taught by example, taught through explanation, taught through commenting on things that aren’t right and things that are, taught through visibly cooperating with others to get a job done.

    But somehow, somewhere along the line, the idea that you didn’t have to teach such things came to the fore.  NOT teaching is much easier, and much simpler.  It doesn’t require you to frame complex issues in ways that a little child could understand them, and it also allowed you to somewhat ignore your kids when they were puzzled by things that you didn’t want to explain – or were only kind of hazy on yourself.  It didn’t require you to examine your feelings and beliefs, and test them against the real world and how you moved through it.

    So you end up, after enough years, with adults who have no idea how to make value judgments on whether something is right or wrong.  You end up with needing rules by the government to make even small decisions – like whether a small child with a butter knife in his lunchbox is a potential murderer and must be thrown out of school for other kids safety.  Because if you follow a rule, there’s no chance of getting in trouble for making a bad decision, right?  (Thankfully, ‘zero tolerance’ is looking to be near dead.  Another 5 years, and it’ll be buried.)

    And bureaucrats just LOVE to make rules – whether they’re needed/heeded or not.

    But rules and regulations are no substitute for thinking.  All too many people in government haven’t figured that out yet.

  • Meiji Man

    This reminds me of my problems when I lived in Utah. The local culture was very big on “free agency” that you are endowed by your creator the ability to make moral choices. Yet this culture also went very much out of it’s way not make sure you didn’t have the opportunity to exercise your free agency. They did this by limiting and restricting access to situations that would require you to make that choice. Ala restrictions on bars, strip clubs, tobacco and doing things on Sunday. A culture/government that does not trust it’s people will seek to limit the choices available to those people.  

    And they will always say it’s for the common good.