It was Billy Joel who wrote a song some time ago about love relationships ultimately being “a matter of trust”. While that’s true, the larger point—and the reason the song has been repeating in my mind for a few hours now—is that all relationships are built upon trust. Every contract, formal or informal, every market transaction, happens because there is some degree of trust between the participants. It appears to me that trust is such a deep, implicit part of that most of us probably don’t recognize its role, unless something happens to disturb it and therefore bring it to our attention.
The current financial crises come down to a lack of trust. When trust is present, banks make trades amongst themselves, and extend credit to businesses and individuals. When trust is absent, banks hoard their reserves; and that is the root of the current “credit crisis”. Banks have already received billions of dollars of capital injections from the Fed, in an attempt to get things flowing; they didn’t work, and they won’t work until bankers begin to trust each other again.
bailout nationalization bill was a massive betrayal of trust. Rather than letting bad investment paper be labeled as such, and “marked to market”—which means that it is priced at whatever level a buyer will pay for it—so that the rot can be cleared out of the market and trust can start to be restored, the fantasy of claiming trash is worth billions continues. And therefore, the freeze will also continue.
Worse, the bill is a betrayal of individuals’ trust in the political system on an enormous scale. It is blatantly unconstitutional; it socializes an entire sector of the USSA economy to an unprecedented degree; it places a tremendous amount of political and economic power in the hands of a political appointee—at present, one who came from the very sector that created much of the mess in the first place; and it sidestepped any oversight that should exist under the constitution’s sytem of checks and balances.
Those of you who have faith in electoral politics: the politicians who voted for the bill betrayed the people they ostensibly represent—even though many of those voters called, faxed, and emailed their opposition to the “bailout” in unequivocal terms. Search for campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs and other banks to Obama, McCain, Pelosi, et al.—do you think those figures might explain anything? Do you think they might mean something?
Do those politicians deserve any trust?
Now, browse that site for other lobbyists. How much do they give, and to whom?
Has your trust in this form of government been well-placed?
While the grand march to fascism and economic ruin stepped up yesterday, the FDA was busy officially allowing melamine to be present in some foods. A revealing set of comments came from one of its healthocrats, emphasis mine:
"There are no approved uses for melamine to be added to food in the United States or anywhere else that I am aware of," [FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Director] Sundlof said. "The fact that it was an intentionally added makes it even worse."
All of the information from China indicates that the chemical was intentionally added to milk and milk powder, Sundlof said. "It's a way of committing economic fraud. It is a way of taking milk and watering it down, then adding melamine to make it appear that it is milk," he said.
And he and the FDA have tacitly said that it’s okay for companies to commit this economic fraud, as long as they do it on a very small scale, and as long as it’s not done in infants’ foods.
A trustworthy action?
Maybe you think that’s an extreme example. Here’s another one, much closer to home. One of the things I am very strict about in making all the food I do, but especially in the candies I sell, is minimizing the amount of unneeded additives. I buy a lot of whipping cream; it’s a key ingredient in my caramels and truffles. I used to be able to easily buy plain old cream that was just pasteurized, as opposed to “ultra-pasteurized”. Now I can’t find non-ultra-pasteurized cream in the regular grocery stores here. In trying to decide whether ultra-pasteurization was worth avoiding, I picked up a carton of whipping cream and read the ingredients. Then I looked at another. Every brand I found that was not labeled “organic” had at least one of these additives in the cream: carrageenan; dextrose; mono- and diglycerides; polysorbate 80.
Adding insult to injury, each of these cartons carries that “real seal” logo, meaning it’s a real dairy product.
At a local farm that sells raw milk, I got a chance to speak with one of the owners; I asked her about their cream. She cautioned me that if I wanted to separate it so that I could make whipped cream, it would taste fine but might not whip to the same volume or stiffness as processed cream. (Gee, I wonder why not?) We can see the cows as we drive up the lane to the store, and most of their buildings have large windows or doors that are almost always open, so that we can see how the animals are treated and how the milk is handled as it’s bottled. Their bottles, however, do not have that Real seal.
Which source do you think I should trust?
Whether by genetics or early life experiences—or both—some of us are naturally more skeptical overall. Others are more trusting. But as the state and its bureaucracies and corporate interests increasingly meld, each of us would benefit tremendously from consciously examining where we place our trust, and why. Is that trust justified? Or has it become a habit? If you have a problem with a product or service, how is that handled? Does it enhance your trust, or diminish it?
I don’t currently see a way to completely opt out of the institutionalized, corporatized marketplace entirely. Becoming more agrarian and self-sufficient would require an enormous upheaval in my current way of living. I’m trying to evaluate the pros and cons of the two paths, before attempting to tweak my current balance. And I operate under no illusion that the local farmer’s market is automagically more trustworthy somehow than WalMart or Safeway. But, for good or for ill, I have always leaned toward trusting individuals and “the little guy” over the big guy.
All that said, I need to re-evaluate where my trust has been placed. Even so, I’m thankful that I had no trust in electoral politics and coercive government to be shattered by recent events.