The first thing to remember is that trust exists for very good reason, even among gangsters. In ordinary commerce its value is obvious. Many products rely on trust: the security of our communications and data storage; the integrity of accounting; the impartiality of the public institutions. Whether we are using Office 360, email, or Google Drive, a medical storage device that stores our sugar levels and blood pressure numbers or files an income tax return, the presumption is that the information we generate is reasonably private. Once that expectation is destroyed, once we are certain that a political hack whose principal qualification is snooping has been appointed to head Obamacare, then an economic cost is inevitably incurred.
Lying isn’t free.
One of the reasons that the United States has remained the last refuge for money fleeing instability abroad is that those investors trust its institutions. They believed — reasonably until now — that in America the rule of law reigned supreme. They thought — until the administration cast the question into serious doubt — that America was not the banana republic that the possessors of those fortunes sought to flee. That’s why the money comes to America and not, let us say, to the Congo.
Similarly, as Lee Smith points out, the word of an American president was trusted enough in the past to make the actual use of arms unnecessary. All that was necessary was for the United States to send a signal and that message would have the effect of armies.
But what happens when an administration makes dishonesty and untrustworthiness a feature? What occurs when the president conditions us to subliminally think — perhaps in spite of ourselves — that in God we Trust but of Obama we can expect nothing but lies? What then?
Well, we’re about to find out.
Or perhaps, more accurately, the administration is about to find out. To a large extent the multiple crises engulfing the Obama administration are economic and informational — it’s a rebellion against the cost of lying. The sheer mendacity of key institutions has jacked up the risk premium on everything, and people instinctively know this.
A friend asked whether “the IRS scandal makes it necessary to consider the call not to pay taxes, or not to file returns, or participate in the all-cash economy. People are thinking these things.” Of course they would be thinking of those things. It would be unnatural if they didn’t.
If you destroy trust in the institutions, then people do business outside the institutions.
The president has made it hard to do business — even for the Left. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the administration’s decision to spy on the Associated Press. That essentially cheapened the meaning of “political friend.” For if the administration could do that to its water-carriers, then what was the point of being his friend? Liberals, like anyone else, feel the pain of being stabbed in the back. It has the same effect as Obama’s assurance to allies than Iran will never get the bomb. Right, sure. Of course.
The emotional impact of Benghazi was probably this: if he could do this to Stevens and to SEALs, then he could do it to anybody.
A lying president debases his own words and undermines his own ability to hold a coalition together. Nobody completely trusts reassurances from a double-crosser. Only a fool would accept a kiss from Judas. The day comes when not even the liberals can fail to notice.
A nation as large as the United States works only if trust in its institutions is maintained. Destroy that and it’s pay as you go and as-is-where-is. Once everything comes down to the caprice of one man, to basing contracts on the secret will of cabals, then it’s all over. It’s bad for business — whatever business you happen to be in.