7/02/2019

Liberal Democracy Has "Trust Issues"

"What does this have to do with reviving trust in liberal democracy? Even though social and political trust interrelate, the effect of one on the other is not as clear as civil-society-as-hero narratives can sometimes suggest. Civil society can breed social trust, to be sure, and sometimes it can even foster trust that bridges across lines of difference, but social trust does not necessarily affect levels of trust in government or in fellow citizens (in contrast to co-parishioners, family members, co-workers, friends). I might trust my neighbours or co-religionists yet see government as hopelessly corrupt or non-responsive. I might also trust my neighbours and co-religionists in those roles—as dinner mates, carpool drivers, investment advisors, maybe even spiritual mentors—but find them incompetent or even morally dubious as citizens. These are hypotheticals, but in fact the empirical evidence that social trust breeds trust in government is largely non-existent. Some studies even suggest the influence might flow more clearly in the other direction: Political trust—confidence in the reliability, openness, responsiveness, and fairness of government— often acts as a precondition for social trust, not the other way around."