Trust Me

UPDATE: All right, so here’s the skinny on this question.  Yesterday, Ben at Terminal Station referenced a great David Brooks article on general happiness and hypothetical trade-offs you could make in your life.  In addition to stating that the single most “injurious” activity to happiness is commuting, he stated …

If you want to find a good place to live, just ask people if they trust their neighbors. Levels of social trust vary enormously, but countries with high social trust have happier people, better health, more efficient government, more economic growth, and less fear of crime (regardless of whether actual crime rates are increasing or decreasing).

And apparently one of the best ways to gauge trust amongst a population is to ask the wallet question below.  Gallup did just such a poll of 170,000 Americans last October, and Utah and South Dakota ranked first with 85% of residents responding that they believed their neighbor would return a wallet with $200 in it.

Georgia ranked 45th among the 50 states (Southern states were some of the lowest of the bunch) with just 64% of people answering yes.

The verdict?  With over 90% of you having faith in your neighbor, you’re all a bunch of trusting, happy, healthy FREAKS!  At least compared to the state of Georgia.


More on why I’m asking this poll question later.  But for now, a little social experiment!

15 thoughts on “Trust Me”

  1. I have evidence of my “Yes” vote — my wife dropped her jacket, with brand-new iPod Touch in the breast pocket, on the walking path near the Oakhurst garden. A neighbor we don’t even know that well from many streets over returned it to us that evening after they’d found it while walking their dog. We STILL thank them every time we see them. Living in Oakhurst has renewed my optimism in regards to many things, without a doubt.

    1. How is “neighbor defined?” Next door? Same street? Same neighborhood? I’d vote yes on the first two, no on the last.

  2. Two things happened to Sandra Bullock this month. First, she won an Academy Award for best actress. Then came the news reports claiming that her husband is an adulterous jerk. So the philosophic question of the day is: Would you take that as a deal? Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?


    The high-minded Brooks arrived at this deep “philosophic” question by pondering the utterly unrealted matters of Bullock’s acting prowess and her husband’s infidenity? Huh? Why would Bullock haved to trade one for the other? Her husband didn’t cheat because of Academy Award. This wasn’t any sort of “deal”; it was a bit of good fortune followed by some bad. Brooks seems to have lost his marbles recently, at least a little bit.

  3. Brooks drives me nuts, too. I like him on TV where he comes across as a conservative who doesn’t foam at the mouth, but he shouldn’t be allowed to have a column where he can write goofy social analysis.

    1. This is the sort of question you’d expect to find in Parade magazine. But since he posed it, I’d take the Oscar over Jesse James without hesitation. Hurt fades, but she will always be the least deserving Oscar winner since Marisa Tomei.

  4. I’m not exactly sure what “social trust” is but the question of whether you trust your Decatur neighbors (to help in an emergency) is an interesting one. My guess is that most of the readers of this blog would like to think we live in a city where people would come to the aid of their neighbor in an emergency but I am no longer sure this would happen. There needs to be something more to unite us besides participating in the beer festivals or cheering on nameless marathon runners. The ties that truly bind us to one another are the neighborhood children who grow up with our own and the long-term relationships you build by attending a local church. Without these and other fundamental experiences, most of us have no real connection with a neighborhood.
    A somewhat recent experience makes me question the “social trust” of the neighborhood I live it. During one of the coldest weeks of the previous year, a tree fell in my neighborhood, knocking out power to only my home. For 36 hours, my family was without electricity- no heat, no stove, and no hot water. Except for the Georgia Power workers, who were our real heroes during this time, no one came by to check on us, even thought our house was dark throughout the night. My wife and I have discussed whether we have failed to build the important bridges between our neighbors over the last twenty years or whether is it something else. Would your Decatur neighbors come to your aid or do you have to depend on your “God, Guns, and Guts” to save you? Thank goodness my wife and I have all three.

  5. You seem to have a wonderful life. You may not be fully appreciating that, although you did go through an unpleasant experience, you still had your family beside you, and your discomfort was at least indoors in an otherwise comfortable home.

    And you might also be overlooking that the “something else” could have been that while your neighbors all had power, power may have been ALL they had at that time. We often think that those around us are leading lives that are running merrily along. Sometimes folks are so preoccupied with just getting by, that they’re oblivious to the world beyond their own walls. Behind those doors could be sadness, health woes, money worries, family dysfunction, or other neighbors who are also wondering why there is no sense of community anymore.

    Nowadays– it’s true– you’re bound to have an apathetic neighbor or two. “Trust” that other neighbors will join you in revitalizing the neighborhood’s sense of community to be what you all want it to be.

    If anyone can do it, it’s you. You’re Mr. Billingsley!

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