Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Post-Modern Interpretation Of Trustworthiness

I made my usual rounds through San Francisco's intellectual circles of influence today. One aspiring philosopher claimed that trustworthiness is the fulfillment of a promise, especially one that is in accord with publicly professed values. The naivete in that expression was striking. Life would be so much kinder if only the modern world worked that way. The real world has a different definition of trustworthiness than the one held in the effete imagination of progressives.

The classical age's virtues gave the Judeo-Christian West a baseline for understanding trustworthiness. The baseline disappeared in the modern era as a semblance of material prosperity became accessible to the uneducated, unenlightened lower classes. The most postmodern definition of trustworthiness has a different formulation from the classical understanding. In antiquity, moral actors earned trust by fulfilling duties, especially civic ones. Today, amoral actors earn trust by providing economic advantages, regardless of how said benefits are attained. Demonstrating integrity by keeping promises is not part of that equation.

Consider how modern politicians typically earn trust. Election winners promise to give their constituents free things. Greedy, selfish, stupid voters flock to the polls and hand them victories purely from self-interest. The question of trustworthiness becomes "What will you do for me?" The answer is some variation of "I will make you prosperous." How the prosperity comes is irrelevant. Voters tend not to link their personal prosperity to abstractions like the rule of law, property rights, enforceable contracts, and incorruptible regulatory bodies. The modern electorate prefers cold, hard cash. It cuts out the middleperson that way. Benefits and bailouts are the order of the day. Politicians who try to do honorable things like balance budgets, end wasteful programs, curtail entitlements, and enforce accountability are the kinds of politicians that voters simply will not trust.

I have always tried to earn trust the old-fashioned way by telling the truth, showing loyalty, and sharing my work. I always fail because my personal values are out of step with the times. Feel free to scold me for my own naivete. My colleagues in financial services lacked personal integrity but outperformed me anyway, and their clients rewarded them for their exertions. Bernard Madoff lied and cheated all the way to prison, while the SEC and his well-heeled clients could not have cared less. In a perverse sense, vile people earn a kind of trust by violating values a philosopher from antiquity would have held dear. The Alfidi Capital solution is to be a lone voice in the wilderness raging against the onrushing dark age.

Trustworthiness is no longer earned in post-modern America. It is a commodity to be traded rather than a virtue to be demonstrated. It is highly ironic that a nation founded by serious intellectual students of the English Enlightenment and ancient Rome has devolved to this state. A reset to pre-modern definitions of trustworthiness and virtue is a pressing national need. Resetting national values is always an election year issue, whether we realize it or not.

I am Anthony James Alfidi, and I approve this message.