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Trust and Governance

Trust and Governance

Valerie Braithwaite
Margaret Levi
Karen S. Cook
Russell Hardin
Margaret Levi
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Trust and Governance
    Book Description:

    An effective democratic society depends on the confidence citizens place in their government. Payment of taxes, acceptance of legislative and judicial decisions, compliance with social service programs, and support of military objectives are but some examples of the need for public cooperation with state demands. At the same time, voters expect their officials to behave ethically and responsibly. To those seeking to understand-and to improve-this mutual responsiveness,Trust and Governanceprovides a wide-ranging inquiry into the role of trust in civic life.

    Trust and Governanceasks several important questions: Is trust really essential to good governance, or are strong laws more important? What leads people either to trust or to distrust government, and what makes officials decide to be trustworthy? Can too much trust render the public vulnerable to government corruption, and if so what safeguards are necessary? In approaching these questions, the contributors draw upon an abundance of historical and current resources to offer a variety of perspectives on the role of trust in government. For some, trust between citizens and government is a rational compact based on a fair exchange of information and the public's ability to evaluate government performance. Levi and Daunton each examine how the establishment of clear goals and accountability procedures within government agencies facilitates greater public commitment, evidence that a strong government can itself be a source of trust. Conversely, Jennings and Peel offer two cases in which loss of citizen confidence resulted from the administration of seemingly unresponsive, punitive social service programs.

    Other contributors toTrust and Governanceview trust as a social bonding, wherein the public's emotional investment in government becomes more important than their ability to measure its performance. The sense of being trusted by voters can itself be a powerful incentive for elected officials to behave ethically, as Blackburn, Brennan, and Pettit each demonstrate. Other authors explore how a sense of communal identity and shared values make citizens more likely to eschew their own self-interest and favor the government as a source of collective good. Underlying many of these essays is the assumption that regulatory institutions are necessary to protect citizens from the worst effects of misplaced trust.Trust and Governanceoffers evidence that the jurisdictional level at which people and government interact-be it federal, state, or local-is fundamental to whether trust is rationally or socially based. Although social trust is more prevalent at the local level, both forms of trust may be essential to a healthy society.

    Enriched by perspectives from political science, sociology, psychology, economics, history, and philosophy,Trust and Governanceopens a new dialogue on the role of trust in the vital relationship between citizenry and government.

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation's Series on Trust.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-078-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Margaret Levi and Valerie Braithwaite

    On the walls of theSala della Pace, Hall of Peace, of Siena’s City Hall are some glorious fourteenth-century frescoes illustrating the effects of good and evil government. The first depicts a form of heaven; the other is clearly hell. These are not, however, religious paintings. The character of one’s government is neither a consequence of fate nor a reward for a life well led. Rather, the quality of governance reflects the quality of one’s leaders and one’s laws. Both the people and the rulers of this city of good government appear serene, even happy; they exit and enter their...


    • Chapter 1 Trust in Government
      (pp. 9-27)
      Russell Hardin

      There are two senses in which trust has long been associated with government. One tradition is stated well in the ancient Greek “Anonymous lamblichi”: “The first result of lawfulness is trust, which greatly benefits all people and is among the greatest goods. The result of trust is that property has common benefits, so that even just a little property suffices, since it is circulated, whereas without this even a great amount does not suffice” (294). In essence, law enables people to trust and therefore to exchange, to their great benefit. The context of the remark is a list of the...

    • Chapter 2 Trust, Cooperation, and Human Psychology
      (pp. 28-45)
      Simon Blackburn

      Trust and cooperation concern everyone. A search in the major journals database under the two words gives results from journals of architecture, dentistry, economics, education, law, and Trust and music, as well as politics, psychology, and philosophy. Why philosophy? It may not at first be clear what specifically philosophical questions such concepts raise. In thinking about them we seem to be in the domain of the social psychologist, who can do empirical research on the existence of trust, or the economist, who can measure its effects, for instance, on the costs of making various transactions. But there are deep currents...

    • Chapter 3 Communal and Exchange Trust Norms: Their Value Base and Relevance to Institutional Trust
      (pp. 46-74)
      Valerie Braithwaite

      In the previous chapters, Russell Hardin and Simon Blackburn have given two different accounts of how people come to trust government. For Hardin, trust is based on knowledge, knowledge that allows good predictions about how one party will respond to the expectations placed on it by another. For Blackburn, such an informational base contributes to trust but is not sufficient; trust comes with a shared understanding that one is relying on the other. Trust in the Blackburn sense transcends information and has its source in the social bond.

      The purpose of this chapter is to show that both conceptions of...


    • Chapter 4 A State of Trust
      (pp. 77-101)
      Margaret Levi

      The topic of trust has recently inspired a host of books and conferences. This is in part because of recent events. The overturning of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the emergence of democratization movements in other parts of the world raise questions about how to institute trust in an unaccustomed state and government. The creation of new institutions to manage the European Union seems also to depend on the development of trust, this time among both member states and their citizens. The intensity of ethnic and religious conflicts generates concern about what fuels and maintains distrust. The relative...

    • Chapter 5 Trusting Leviathan: British Fiscal Administration from the Napoleonic Wars to the Second World War
      (pp. 102-134)
      Martin Daunton

      In 1829, William Heath published a cartoon that portrayed a common view of British society. At the top of the image was a wooden beam, labeled “manufactures and commerce,” that had snapped under the weight of people dependent on it. Desperately clinging to the beam were four tattered workmen. Hanging on to their legs were two prosperous business men, and clutching in turn at their coat tails was a plump individual, splendidly attired in the robes of a bishop and peer. The caption spelled out the message “Manufactures and commerce support the workmen, they the merchants and masters who are...

    • Chapter 6 Trust, Taxes, and Compliance
      (pp. 135-166)
      John T. Scholz

      A decade ago compliance studies focused primarily on the coercive aspect of government. Citizens complied with the law out of fear of being caught, so government could enhance compliance by developing effective enforcement policies that deterred noncompliance. This Hobbesian perspective assumed that fear of detection and punishment were the primary incentives available to government to ensure that individuals would follow laws passed for the good of all. The rational-choice perspective and principal-agent models that stimulated research and policy designs for many other policy issues also stimulated innovations in enforcement policies based on the deterrence approach. Duty and shame were sometimes...

    • Chapter 7 The Mobilization of Private Investment as a Problem of Trust in Local Governance Structures
      (pp. 167-194)
      Susan H. Whiting

      The concept of trust is elusive; it is difficult to operationalize or measure and even more difficult to explain. The issue of trust arises in situations involving risk—specifically, “situations in which the risk one takes depends on the performance of another actor” (Coleman 1990, 91). The type of trust addressed in this chapter is specific as opposed to diffuse or general; in Russell Hardin’s (1993) terms, “Trust is a three-part relation: A trusts B to do X” (506). In the context of trust in government, citizens either do or do not trust government agents to do X, where X...


    • Chapter 8 Democratic Trust: A Rational-Choice Theory View
      (pp. 197-217)
      Geoffrey Brennan

      What might it mean to say that citizens rationally trust democracy—or for that matter, trust any particular political order within which collective decisions are made? In this chapter, I distinguish two possible answers to this question. One answer—the one that has been predominant in the rational-actor political theory tradition—is that citizens can trust democracy to the extent that democratic arrangements structure incentives in such a way that rational agents will be led to produce political outcomes that are in the citizens’ interests. Another possible answer—the one that will be my chief concern in this chapter-is that...

    • Chapter 9 Political Trust and the Roots of Devolution
      (pp. 218-244)
      M. Kent Jennings

      Americans’ trust in government underwent a massive decline in the mid- to late 1960s. A modest resurgence during the heart of Ronald Reagan’s presidential years proved to be temporary.¹ Virtually all the literature and public discussion treating the sources and consequences of that fall from grace deal with evaluations of the national government. Although this emphasis is understandable, it ignores the fact that individuals are embedded in a multiplicity of governments. Or, from the top-down perspective, it ignores the reality that multiple levels and layerings of government address diverse needs and interests within the citizerny. Federal systems in particular develop...

    • Chapter 10 Uncertainty, Appraisal, and Common Interest: The Roots of Constituent Trust
      (pp. 245-266)
      William T. Bianco

      This chapter deals with the phenomena of leadership in a democracy. My focus is on situations where constituents defer to the judgment of elected officials, allowing them to take actions that are contrary to constituent demands without incurring an electoral penalty. When does this sort of trust arise? More specifically, when can elected officials innovate, changing policy from the status quo or making policy in new areas, without fear of being thrown from office? That is the question addressed here.

      Assumptions about trust play a central, if sometimes unacknowledged, role in many of our theories of politics, as both Russell...


    • Chapter 11 Trust and Democratic Governance
      (pp. 269-294)
      Tom R. Tyler

      This chapter addresses three issues. The first is the importance of trust. My argument is that trust is an important facilitator of democratic governance. I also suggest that there is a need to distinguish between the influence of trust on deference to authority and the influence of trust on the development of consensus. The second issue is the psychology of trust—that is, the underlying reason that people defer to authorities. I argue that there are two types of trust: trust that is linked to judgments of risk (instrumental trust) and trust that is based upon social bonds and shared...

    • Chapter 12 Republican Theory and Political Trust
      (pp. 295-314)
      Philip Pettit

      The republican way of thinking about citizenry and government has long given prominence to the notion of trust. We are told that government is a trust with which the people invest those in power; this theme is prominent among the “commonwealthmen” (Robbins 1959) who dominated eighteenth-century England and America and was most explicitly formulated by one of their heroes, John Locke ([1690] 1965). And we are told that there is no prospect of decent government unless those in power prove to be of a trustworthy disposition; this theme recurs in the emphasis among all republicans, classical and modern, on the...

    • Chapter 13 Trusting Disadvantaged Citizens
      (pp. 315-342)
      Mark Peel

      For some observers, there are few more pressing problems in late-twentieth-century political culture than the apparent decline of conscientious citizenship. Contemporary Australian discussions form part of a broader debate about national institutions and national identity, arising in part from the prospect of a republic and an Australian head of state in time for the anniversary of federation in 2001. They have focused to a significant extent on young people and have tended to assume that distrust of politicians and governments stems from declining civic awareness or a lack of civic education. The problem, in other words, lies within the citizen....

    • Chapter 14 Institutionalizing Distrust, Enculturating Trust
      (pp. 343-375)
      John Braithwaite

      We have all experienced how distrust can sour interpersonal relationships, how heavy-handed managerialist distrust can destroy a work environment. Yet the more trust there is in the world, the greater the opportunities for its breach. Corporate crime (Shapiro 1987, 1990), abuse of state power (Finn 1993; Grabosky 1989), and the abuse of women and children in families (Widom 1989) are preeminent examples of the centrality of breach of trust to the biggest problems contemporary societies face. This chapter explores how we might structure distrust into contemporary societies to protect against violation of trust. The idea is that if we can...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 376-380)
    Valerie Braithwaite and Margaret Levi

    When and how trust affects actions of citizens and government officials depends on the assumptions that are made about motives, cognitions, and emotions. This volume represents a variety of perspectives on trust, ranging from trust that is rationally grounded to trust that springs from shared identity and emotional connectedness.

    In the more rationalist approach, individuals are assumed to be rational, and trust is a form of encapsulated self-interest. For these theorists, trust is responsive to data, to beliefs about the trusted, and to likely outcomes from the trusting relationship. Its sources include familiarity, reliable information, generalizations based on experience with...

  10. Index
    (pp. 381-386)