Trust is most present when it goes unnoticed. He who is wary that relevant others take his own interest into account when they (inter)act is distrustful, a situation that calls for trust restoring actions. In a fundamental sense, trust is the absence of distrust. He who trusts counts on others taking his interest into account, something that is built into the relationship. The same applies to ‘bona fides’ in agreements. When we contract we understand the other party to be interested in having the terms of the contract materialize, without subterfuge or cheating.To contract involves in one sense or another a joint belief in a positive outcome. But in our analytical, self-interested world we tend to dissect this trust into a) a perception on the part of the trustor, and b) a motivation on the part of the trustee. ‘Pacta sunt servanda’ is one way to express this relationship. The trustor can trust, because the norm for the trustee is to perform his contracts. We look for guarantees and the guarantee of trust is here a strong theory of obligation, be it in terms of a moral or a political theory. Who doesn’t perform his contracts goes to hell, c.q. to prison. That will make them behave!

Blom, H. (2017). Hugo Grotius on Trust, Its Causes and Effects. In László Kontler and Mark Somos (eds), Trust and Happiness in the History of European Political Thought, (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2017.) (pp. 76–98). Retrieved from