I recently moved and can offer a very descriptive side by side comparison of what it is like to live in a low trust community and a high trust neighborhood.
The issue of social trust is one libertarians tend to ignore, because it can’t be calculated. It’s not mathematical. It’s not economical. You can’t measure the financial worth of trusting your next door neighbor, and it doesn’t show up in fancy charts or graphs. But it is real, it is obvious, and it drives much of human action that we try to assign to other incentives and motives that are considered more appropriate or acceptable.
- Suburban environment. Almost everyone in the area was foreign-born or the children of foreigners. Highly multicultural and ethnically diverse. I felt like a stranger in a foreign land, rather than a native in a neighborhood I had grown up in.
- The people were polite at best, maybe offered a smile, but none were friendly. At worst, they looked like they would break into your residence or vehicle if the chance arose. No one waved or said “hi” as they were walking by. Most people kept their heads down or ignored me. Children played amongst themselves, but rarely acknowledged me. I did not get to know a single person there.
- Police cars were outside my apartment complex every other week.
- Fire alarms were constantly going off due to foreigners refusing to open their windows while cooking ethnic food, forcing us to evacuate and wait for the fire department to give the “ok” to go back in.
- Trash and garbage left in lobby when people moved out
- Teens and other troublemakers would sit on the first floor near the fire exit and smoke cigarette, maybe tag the walls or smash the glass for the fire extinguishers.
- Rules were never followed. Emergency exits were always kept open despite apartment rules.
- Nothing could be left unlocked. If I went to take something from my car to the dumpster 25 feet away, I locked my car. If it was my apartment, I locked that, too.
- Rural environment. Virtually homogeneous. I feel like I am back in America after living for years in another nation.
- Extremely friendly. The moment I got out of my car to unload things kids were on the street playing war with toy guns – something you will never see in a suburban area. They waved to me and a friend I had with me; a girl approached my friend and told him she liked his camouflage hat.
- Every time I go outside and see someone jogging or driving in their vehicle, people wave and smile. I feel encouraged to randomly knock on people’s door and introduce myself.
- Zero fear of robbery or thefts. I don’t leave my vehicles unlocked, but I don’t feel the urgent need to double and triple check to ensure that they’re secure. I don’t drive to work wondering if I’ll come back to find my place broken into and my possessions stolen.
Moral of the Story: Life is about more than money and “freedom.” The value of and need for social trust should never be taken for granted.