When it comes to business and the economy, the word trust has two – and to some people diametrically opposed – meanings. Trust as a virtue in the marketplace means having confidence in the honesty, reliability, and integrity of market players. It speaks volumes about our free enterprise system that a stranger can walk into a small business, for example, that he has never patronized before, and yet generally trust that he will be served well, dealt with fairly, and will walk out the door with a product that does what it is supposed to do.
But trust also refers to a business organization whereby a group of trustees control one or more corporations. Trusts emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and were accused of assorted market abuses, with antitrust laws emerging in response. Ironically, trusts came to signify, in popular terms at least, big bad business breaking trust (in the first sense) in the marketplace.