But it is even more complicated than that because Trust is not just a static characteristic, it also changes. A company that delivers a highly trusted product or service can suddenly find that it is losing that trust because the underlying technology has moved on and left it behind. If your customers expect you to be state-of-the-art in performance, quality or price, anything less is a betrayal of their trust.
Success, too, can lead to a betrayal of Trust. So can an evolution in customers. In the tech world, the most famous example is that of the scandal that nearly killed Intel Corp.: the software bug in the Pentium microprocessor chip. There had always been bugs in processors, but because most of the people using the early microprocessors were scientists and engineers, they expected them, worked around them, and waited for Intel or Motorola to send them fixes. But with Pentium, and the transformative marketing campaign that surrounded it -- "Intel Inside" -- Intel now found itself with a gigantic customer base of everyday consumers ... people for whom such a bug was a catastrophe, a betrayal of trust by the company, and a source of real fear by unsophisticated users. Intel initially dismissed the growing controversy -- and, then, in a move that may have saved the company, reversed itself and agreed to replace all of the faulty chips.
As the world grows more complex, the marketplace expands to encompass billions, and the stakes go ever higher -- so does the importance of Trust. And nowhere is the burden of trust greater than when we enter into a relationship that requires us to abandon all alternatives. Because Trust can never be perfect, it always helps to know that if that Trust begins to falter, we have someplace else to go, an escape hatch.
This human need, I suspect, is what underlies the angry response right now to the Obama administration's health care plan. Progressives and other social engineers always make the same mistake: They find what they believe is the One Best Way, the empirically most efficient, reasonable and fair process, and then seek to impose it on the entire population as the Right Thing To Do. What they inevitably fail to appreciate (because they are Utopians) is that they are demanding from the populace almost infinite Trust -- in matters of life and death, something most sensible adults will, wisely, never give -- while at the same time stripping away every other alternative. This is guaranteed to create fear, a sense of helplessness ... and ultimately, anger.
In a smaller way, that same impulse helps to explain my anger at Comcast right now. I entered into the agreement trusting that the cable company would provide me with reliable service.
In the meantime, as long as I'm trapped and helpless, I think I'll have a latte.
This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.