In a world where confidence in the establishment has fallen to an all-time low, “Don’t trust us” is an attractive sales pitch. When Facebook announced Libra, the company was careful to emphasize its limited authority over the proposed cryptocurrency. Libra will be managed by a Swiss foundation of which Facebook is only one member.

The company didn’t fool anyone with those decentralization claims, but the goals are instructive. Facebook knows that the best way to win over users is to minimize its own involvement.

Even central banks can appreciate this. At this year’s Economic Policy Symposium in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney suggested a synthetic hegemonic currency that could be provided through a network of central bank digital currencies.

It’s a distinct break from a half-century of dollar dominance. U.S. Treasuries make up about two-thirds of global reserve holdings, all residing as database entries at Federal Reserve Banks, where every transaction can be monitored or stopped.

Other countries don’t share Americans’ appreciation for U.S. regulatory authority, especially those at the receiving end of sanctions.

European Union member states are reluctant to sacrifice trade and investment opportunities with Russia, Iran, and other economies by adhering to U.S. sanctions. As a solution, European banks set up a special-purpose vehicle called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, or Instex, to help companies do business with Iran without actually sending money across borders. Instex acts as a clearinghouse that matches credits and debits for trade, but transactions get netted and batched so that money doesn’t cross Iranian borders. It hasn’t been put to much use so far, but an informal version has existed for centuries. Hawala is an international value-transfer system that relies on a global network of brokers. It may look primitive because of the absence of contracts and courts, but hawala scales remittances to poor countries that international banks find too risky to serve. Hawala brokers don’t comply with KYC requirements—not in the legal sense, anyway. Participants know each other based on informal relationships in local communities.

A crypto version exists as well. Bitcoin Lightning is a decentralized clearing system where participants send Bitcoin payment messages all around the world. Earlier this year, a series of Lightning payments took place between users in the U.S. and Europe, then to Iran, then Israel, concluding with a donation to a humanitarian aid program in Venezuela. The payments were privately cleared through the Lightning protocol, and if participants hadn’t announced their game on Twitter, no one would have known.

Trust takes a long time to create but only a moment to destroy. When people lose confidence in the institutions that serve them, economic activity breaks down. The solution isn’t to make powerful institutions even more powerful but to create technology that reduces the need to trust powerful institutions.

The greatest innovations leverage human instinct to expand what’s possible. Financial institutions talk a lot about banking the unbanked, but that might do the unbanked a disservice. A monolithic panopticon is no substitute for local knowledge.

This all sounds bad if you’re in charge of U.S. foreign policy or any type of regulation. It’s good if you want a world where people can cooperate without interference. After all, that’s how economic progress is made.