02 April 2009

Institutions as large-scale, inter-locking trust relationshps

Trust is an asset. It must be built up. In the process of that building up it must be earned. It cannot be taken, it can only be given and received. Once it is built up it must be nurtured through stewardship; it cannot be exercised exclusively in the service of welfare- or profit-maximization.

Trust is a fund that has a fertile core that can be harvested. That core is also susceptible to be abused and exploited for short term gain. Given enough abuse, the trust would eventually be exhausted.

Now imagine the earning and the building up of trust not just between two people but in a larger population. Such a process of large-scale earning and building up of trust shades into institution-building, where the institution is the development of a set of inter-locking trusting relationships. We can go further and describe the establishment of standards and practices which are institutions for institutions, which is to say a set of inter-locking trusting relationships among sets of inter-locking trusting relationships. All of these must be nurtured and stewarded. They can be exploited for short term gain but at the cost, in the long term, of exhaustion and collapse.

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