Three Levels of Confidence

February 2014  |  Status: Second Draft

There are roughly three levels of confidence that people can have about something or somebody.

1) Credit is the lowest level. It is based on little more than a history of, or statistical likelihood of, good conduct. This is the level of confidence that most reasonable people are willing to grant to strangers, such as the guy who just walked into the bank looking for a loan.

2) Trust, in a narrow sense, is the next level. It is based partly on a history of good conduct, but also partly on a deeper understanding of the subject that tells you that they care personally about you and therefore they’ll try not to betray your expectations. This is the level of confidence that people usually grant to their family, close friends, and loyal pets.

3) Faith is the highest level. It may or may not be based on a history of good conduct, and it may even be maintained despite a history of undesired or incomprehensible conduct. Most people reserve faith to supernatural entities and/or a small number of very close people.

Problems arise when people or entities ask others to have confidence in them at a level that is unsuitable for them. For example, governments and corporations too often ask us to have Faith in them. We know it’s Faith they want from us, because they often ask for it in the aftermath of a series of events that clearly demonstrate that they don’t care for us.

This is blasphemous. Governments and corporations are neither God nor your mom!

In my opinion, the highest level of confidence that a persona ficta can enjoy is Trust, and even that’s only by proxy of a natural person (i.e. the leader of a government or owner of a corporation is known to be a very ethical person). Usually it’s just Credit, and in today’s crazy markets, plenty of corporations lack even that.

As legal fictions by definition lack conscience, they are best treated as psychopaths. The only guarantee of their reliability is a matrix of probabilities based on cold, rational calculation. That makes them immensely beneficial when your interests align with theirs, but also terribly dangerous as soon as their calculus begins to diverge from yours.