Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where Do We Turn When Trust Is Betrayed?

I found this recent article about a Gallup survey on trust that decries a general lack of societal trust. I'm not so sure this recent "study" is all that illuminating. But it got me thinking in general about the notion of trust in our society and how it intersects with the law.

By and large, we are a trusting society. The other day I was Christmas shopping and made some purchases at Dick's Sporting Goods. The checkout girl asked if I wanted to make a donation to St. Jude's Children Hospital, which I did. I had the fleeting thought: "How do I know if my donation will ever make it in full or in part to St. Jude's?" The answer was simple: you trust that it will.

Similarly, we trust that the fast food burger or sub we eat won't be tainted with e coli. We trust that the financial institutions that hold and invest our money won't defraud us. And we still place an inordinate amount of trust that our hospitals and doctors will safely treat us.

Simply, our society is built on trust. So where so we turn when that trust is shattered by any of these institutions? Where is the accountability for breaking our trust and harming us in some fashion? The only avenue of redemption we have is the legal system. It too is founded on trust and is by no means perfect either, but the only alternative is personal revenge and taking the law into our own hands, which is chaos, the antithesis of trust.

So I have to wonder why so many people are clammering for a legal "reform" movement that seeks to chop down our right of legal redress when that sacred trust is broken. What is even more perplexing is that this movement is moving forward on the heels of unprecedented Wall Street financial fraud that assaulted millions of hard working Americans' 401K's and other retirement plans, and practically brought our national economy to its knees.

Our legal system is the last line of defense when our sacred trust is fractured. Why we are seeking to dilute it at this crossroads in our nation's history defies logic, reason, and history.

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