Trust Is Debt-Based Currency


One phrase that will make me instantly feel I can’t trust you: “Trust me.”

Trust is believing something or someone in the absence of hard evidence. If someone asks you to trust them (or otherwise tries to gain your trust), they are trying to get you to believe that they will do right by you based solely on their word. Trust is investing in someone’s character based on the abstract feeling that you’ll totally win big from it someday. When you trust someone, you’re effectively paying real money (sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally), and when asked what you got for it, you answer “Oh nothing yet. But I have this really good feeling that I’ll get something eventually.”

Most people spend their lives trying to figure out who they can trust. I think this is totally backwards. Instead, we should be dealing with people who don’t require our trust. We should get off of a trust-based system and demand something real instead.

A debt-based economy operates by exchanging goods and services for the promise of future payment. Eventually this balloons out of control, far beyond any realistic chance of paying back all the debt (at $20 trillion for the United States, this is looking less realistic all the time). Essentially this means a whole country (or world) running on fragile trust, a bubble that could pop at any moment, causing the whole system to come crashing to the ground. Building a system of relationships based on trust is the exact same thing: maintaining relationships not based on real actions, but on the promise that real actions will eventually take place. I think this is completely backwards, and can only contribute to heartbreak.

Instead, I think we should build relationships not based on trust, but on trustworthiness; not on the promise of goodness, but on goodness itself. Instead of observing isolated positive acts, determining from them that the person is trustworthy, and filling the void between said acts with trust, we should seek “void-less” relationships based only by observable character. Instead of wanting to be trusted, we should act in such a way that no one has to.

(As a side note, this is how you can repair a broken reputation: not by a few good acts followed by pleading to be trusted again, but by building a record of actions that show character. Then, over time, you won’t care who trusts you or doesn’t, because your actions will speak for themselves)

Liars and cheats ask you to trust them. Decent people show you that you can trust them. But the best people never need your trust.

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.
  • As American humorist Jean Shepherd once said, “In God we trust. All others pay cash.”