When leaders cheat, followers … follow

When leaders cheat, followers … follow, by Glenn Reynolds.

America has been — and, for the moment, remains — a high-trust society. In high-trust societies, people extend trust to strangers and follow rules for the most part even when nobody is watching. In low-trust societies, trust seldom extends beyond close family, and everybody cheats if they can get away with it.

High-trust societies are much nicer places to live than low-trust ones. But a fish rots from the head and the head of our society is looking pretty rotten. As [Gonzalo] Lira says, “I’m like Wayne Gretsky: I don’t concern myself with where the puck has been — I look for where the puck is going to be.” Where will our society be in a decade if these trends continue? And what can we do to ensure that they don’t?

European culture took more than a thousand years to develop into a high-trust, law-abiding society. For a thousand years, people who didn’t obey the law tended to end up in prison or worse — and not reproduce. The prerequisites for the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution were this culture of trust, along with the stable sexual deal of traditional marriage, and private property laws that allowed you to keep most of what you produce or invent. The resulting huge leap forward in knowledge and productivity has made everyone’s lives much easier, right around the world.

Our PC elite are putting all that at risk, by being so corrupt and self-serving, by tipping the sexual applecart towards hedonism and female dominance, by increasing taxes, by increasingly crowding out private enterprise with big government, by closing off incentives for inventors while strangling science with government funding, by importing into western countries too many people from low-trust cultures, and by encouraging a banking system that creates money out of thin air and tends to enrich the wealthy while leaving bankers with far too much.