Does human nature dictate that we don't trust each other? It seems that way. While it is true that communities can form and have each others' backs, the vast majority of society seems bent on believing and expecting the worst of its people.
This is why we have police officers, FBI/CIA/DEA/NSA/TSA/XXX agents, a vast military machine, and even a division at the US Department of Justice that focuses solely on corporate antitrust. Schools have metal detectors, airports have ridiculous security procedures - it goes on. As a politician, you have to show that you are tough on crime, promoting your prosecutorial record (or in some states how many people you've put on death row). Have you ever heard a politician campaign on the fact that they have less people behind bars, and claiming it to be a good thing?
As an aside, it's interesting that American (I can't speak for other countries) enforcement officers are measured on their conviction rates vs. their prevention rates. Success is putting more people behind bars vs. preventing the crime from happening in the first place. Implication: the whole system is conditioned to look for wrong-doing (perhaps even creating wrong-doing to succeed) vs. preventing it.
Surely this can't be a productive way to live? This mentality permeates the corporate space as well; with few exceptions, almost every large (> 500 employees) company I've ever worked with or for has a layer of politics and mistrust between departments. In some cases it's the arrogance of not wanting to take a dependency on "them" to do something, so you create your own redundant process; in other cases, it's a belief (not inaccurate) that compensation/recognition is a zero-sum game that requires me/us to do better than him/them - for me/us to win, he/they have to lose. The team matters less than the individual.
Whatever it is, companies as much as societies believe the worse of themselves, and design and manage to that expectation of untrustworthy behavior. Look at HR models, regulatory compliance rules and trainings, corporate overhead, and you'll find that much of that is rooted in the expectation of betrayal.
But there are exceptions, my thanks to Axon for sharing this statement of Netflix' Freedom and Responsibility culture. It speaks volumes about their approach, but it's also interesting that it took 128 pages to tell the story. I wonder if one statement might have sufficed:
"We hired you because we believe in you, share your passion for doing great things, and feel your belief in us. All we ask is that you always keep our shared goal for greatness at the front of your mind and do the right thing."
Is it possible that if I trust you, you will feel empowered by that trust and allow the better angels of your nature to prevail? We do this in places like airports where we ask a stranger to watch our bags for a minute. Parents do this when entrusting their children to babysitters. Team sport athletes do this because they know they have to act as one and trust in each other in order to win. Netflix does this.
What will it take to do it more broadly? I think it boils down to one thing - the imposition of a shared accountability. This might not stop all untrustworthy behavior, but from what I've read of organizational behavior and crowd theories (like Wisdom of Crowds), it is possible to move the needle towards less oversight but better outcomes through self- and team-policing. Look at most smaller organizations, and especially those where each employee has some kind of equity stake in the company and you see this how well this can work. Is it possible that size does matter? That once you hit a certain size trust just begins to fade? I can't believe this (that's the Pollyanna in me, I know) - I think we can design organizations and even communities that are pro-trust.
It's a matter of will.