Trust is the most important factor of any relationship. Trust between strangers is the most important factor in a strong society. America’s social trust has evaporated. Let’s fix it.
Do you trust the government? Do you trust banks? Do you trust schools, hospitals, the police? Do you trust the Democrats or Republicans? Do you trust the justice system? Do you trust markets or corporations?
Trust in our institutions is rapidly collapsing and with good cause. But that distrust of institutions is evolving into a general distrust. It is being heightened by a perpetual sense of economic insecurity.
From an evolutionary standpoint, we tend to look out for those who can be identified as members of “our” group. Our immediate family most obviously. The most important advancement in human evolution was the ability to move beyond the familial, developing cultural signs of who is part of our tribe and who isn’t. The most successful civilizations at any given time are the ones that can establish the most openness and trust between its people.
America’s social trust has been through highs and lows. The Civil War was a bit of a low point, the post-WW2 era was a bit of a high point. High or low social trust can act as feedback loop. When it is high we can cooperate and organize at a large scale. The government works well and the economy is strong and we feel secure in our futures. That economic security lets us feel more open and trusting of others, we are open and accepting and we cooperate more. This is a mindset of abundance.
When social trust is low, the government is riddled with dysfunction, the economy struggles, markets can’t work if you don’t trust the participants. Our tribal worldview contracts. We no longer look at others as human beings, we don’t look at each other as Americans or neighbors, we see class, we see race, we see religious and political affiliation. We look for ways to draw lines around the resources and keep others out. This is a scarcity mindset. This is where we are now. This is the point where we slip into a death spiral and civil war or this is the point where we say “no”, we force ourselves to recognize eachother’s own inherent value as human beings, and we start working together again.
Most people know the Prisoners’ Dilemma game, it the most common introduction to game theory. It goes something like this: You and a partner commit a crime and are questioned separately by the police. If you pin it all on your partner you go free and your partner goes to prison for 5 years and vice versa. If you both talk you both go to prison for 3 years. If neither of you talk, you each spend a year in prison.
Clearly, the best outcome for you is to betray your partner and have your partner stay silent. But the best outcome is for you both to cooperate. But, suppose this is a repeated scenario, you’ll have to work with this partner again. You want them to like you the next time around so they don’t betray you. It quickly becomes the best outcome for you to cooperate, always.
Real life is quite a bit more complicated than this. In game theory, there are simple strategies meant to approximate real-life approaches to repeated games. Strategies like always cooperate, always betray (self-explanatory), or tit-for-tat where you copy your partner’s last strategy. You can imagine most people have a sense of reciprocal altruism (tit-for-tat) with a few altruists (always cooperate) or free riders (always betray) among them.
You can imagine how a population of reciprocal altruists can quickly collapse into constant betray with a lot of free riders in the mix. But, there is another strategy, a strategy that can protect altruists and reciprocal altruists from the free-riders by always cooperating at first but if they are ever betrayed, will respond with constant betrayal. That strategy is called Grim. This is the role I view myself in.
Politics is full of free-riders, politicians who take advantage of the public trust, politicians who think they can do the wrong thing some of the time if they do enough good to satisfy the voters. That attitude is destroying our government. It is not an attitude I intend to allow to persist in the state legislature. I will relentlessly call out every giveaway to special interests, every bailout, every infringement of liberty. And then I will do everything in my power to ensure the politician behind it is exposed and the voters kick them out come election season.
Ohio politics is a microcosm of everything wrong in this country. We are deeply gerrymandered to ensure total Republican domination of a state that is at best 50% Republican. The passage of HB6, the nuclear bailout, is emblematic of a broken system. It had no ideological consistency, it was opposed by Republicans and Democrats. It was a massive bailout to a private corporation who donated generously to its backers in the government. The effort to place it on the ballot for a referendum on repeal was backed by millions of dollars on all sides. Outside petitioners were brought it, petitioners were bribed and threatened. The whole process was an embarrassment to the state. I am truly disgusted by the antics of our representatives.
We have to stand for what’s right, we have to stand for the truth. Or we will lose everything. Our country is an ongoing project. It is not inevitable, it is not so perfectly designed that it can stand on its own good intent for centuries. We have checks and balances for a reason. We have a wide dispersion of political power for a reason. Constant vigilance is the price we pay.
You don’t make a lot of friends fighting the system, but you protect everyone else, and that’s what matters. I won’t be politically correct, I won’t hold back. I’ll be the obnoxious jerk and burn bridges for my future because someone has to. I will accept and suffer the consequences of social exclusion. I will act as a lone check against those in pursuit of power. I will play the Grim. Because someone has to.
What Needs Done:
- We need a voice in Ohio politics to stand for what is right, no matter the cost.
- Political power needs dispersed and to be placed in full view of the public.
What I’ll Do:
- Turn myself into a pariah.
- Stand up to Republican hegemony.
- Expose the inner workings of the Ohio government for the corrupt, incompetent mess it is.
- Introduce anti-corruption and transparency legislation.