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March 25, 2024 | Elites, Commoners, And The Shrinking Trust Horizon

John Rubino is a former Wall Street financial analyst and author or co-author of five books, including The Money Bubble: What to Do Before It Pops and Clean Money: Picking Winners in the Green-Tech Boom. He founded the popular financial website in 2004, sold it in 2022, and now publishes John Rubino’s Substack newsletter.

Charles Hugh Smith is doing a great job of covering inequality and the pathologies it creates. Here, he explains why the trust horizon is shrinking for some but not others:

Why Social Trust Is Cratering: The Difference Between Elites and Commoners

We trust what we own / control, and the difference between elites and commoners is the elites own / control the wealth and power that dominate our daily lives.

It sounds too obvious to be profound: we trust what we own / control. Of course we do. But it becomes profoundly consequential when we add the shadow half of the statement: we don’t trust what we don’t own / control without constant feedback providing verifiable evidence that it is worthy of our trust.

Absent this positive verifiable (i.e. factual evidence based on both data and personal-anecdotal experience) feedback, we have good reason to assume whatever we don’t own / control is primarily serving the interests of those who do own / control it. And since this means the product/service’s trustworthiness is suspect despite claims that it serves our interests, we must seek a steady flow of feedback substantiating that the product/service is still providing the value the owners / managers are claiming, either explicitly or implicitly.

In other words, hands-on knowledge about the inner workings of the product/service generates trust. Absent this experiential knowledge, we’re flying blind as to the true value of the product/service. If the actual value is less than the owners / managers claim, both the owners / managers and the product/service they’re providing are unworthy of our trust.

Consider a simple example: the food we put in our mouths to sustain ourselves.

When I collect fruits and vegetables I’ve grown here in our yard, I have direct knowledge of what went into the care and nurturing of the plants/trees/soil, so I know that there are no pesticides or herbicides and there are an abundance of micronutrients in our food due to the careful management of compost and fertilizers.

The food we eat from our homestead is therefore trustworthy.

We get lettuce and beets from a longtime family friend who has been farming for decades. He takes great pride in his produce and works extremely hard to raise te highest quality produce. Though I don’t have direct knowledge of his day-to-day practices, I know and trust him and I can see the vibrancy of his produce and taste its quality.

These are the people in our trusted personal network.

You see the gradient of trust: first level is first-hand experience/knowledge, second level is trusted personal network.

Compare this to produce labeled “organic” in a supermarket. We are making a great many assumptions about the produce this label is attached to. We assume the agency monitoring the actual farm practices is thorough and accurate, but this is quite stretch in the real world. Are inspectors onsite every day? What exactly do they test? Where are the results posted?

Produce, organic or not, is a commodity, and nobody is testing the nutritive content of the produce. Maybe one field hasn’t been depleted of micronutrients, while the rest have been over-farmed and depleted of the micronutrients we need to be healthy.

Since all produce is a commodity in global markets, they’re all interchangeable: one kilo of organic tomatoes or wheat is interchangeable with any other kilo of organic tomatoes or wheat, so there’s no way to tell if the “organic” produce or meat has high or low nutritive value. All that’s being claimed is that no pesticides or herbicides were applied and whatever compost and fertilizer were applied were organic. That’s entirely different than claiming the produce/meat is high in nutritive value.

Plants have immune systems, too, and a healthy plant provided with sufficient nutrients and water will resist insect infestations, fungi, bacteria, etc. far better than plants raised in depleted soils. Anyone with experience in actually growing fruits and vegetables is keenly alive to signs of nutrient deficiency or infestation.

The point is “organic” doesn’t mean the produce or meat is packed with nutrients. It just means the minimal guidelines qualifying the product as organic (or “bio”) were met. Those guidelines don’t guarantee a product packed with micronutrients. That takes extra care and tracking that isn’t done in a commoditized economy.

Consider efficacy claims and side-effect labeling on pharmaceuticals. If you actually study the Phase III trial data (I have), you find that the medications were not actually tested in conjunction with other commonly consumed medications. The potential interactions are completely unknown. You also discover the statistical legerdemain that goes into claiming efficacy that may be just barely above random results.

Read the rest here.

The other posts in the “Trust Horizon” series are:

Gold And The Shrinking Trust Horizon

Public Health And The Shrinking Trust Horizon

Deep Fakes, Artificial Intelligence, And The Shrinking Trust Horizon

Wind Power, Dead Whales, And The Shrinking T

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March 25th, 2024

Posted In: John Rubino Substack

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