Trust

One of the most important books of recent times was a book by the American intellectual Francis Fukuyama, called Trust. Its thesis was that trust is a highly important social good, with vast economic effects. He compared the United States and Germany, which are high-trust societies, to France and Italy, which are low-trust societies.  In short, he argued that the scale and size of an enterprise, but not its commercial success, depended upon the amount of trust in a society. Low trust societies turned to the state to manage large-scale enterprizes, because on the whole, the citizens of low-trust societies looked to the state to be a more neutral arbiter among class interests than the bosses and unions could accomplish by themselves. Thus Boeing in the States is privately owned whereas Airbus Industrie in Europe is para-statal.

China likewise was a low trust society. The one social institution on which Chinese people may rely is their family, whereas the state is a capricious enemy most of the time.

Low trust societies, said Fukuyama, are the products of tyrannies. Capricious rule, and the lack of regular access to honest courts of law, produce over the long run societies where people cannot afford to trust one another. Southern Italy would be a prime example. The Mafia and other criminal societies are remnants of local resistance to tyranny.  Apparently it is rare for unrelated children to play with one another in Sicily, he reported.

His major recommendation was that, because strong bonds of social trust were easy to destroy and very difficult to generate, America had to be careful to maintain its wellsprings of social trust. He was alarmed by the decline of social trust in the United States, at the time of writing- 1996.

As you might guess, the level of trust among Americans continues to drop. In 1972, half of Americans said they could trust one another. By 2013 only one-third felt that way. Trust is lower among blacks than whites. Trust is lower among the poor than among the well-off. Is it income differentials that are creating this growing lack of trust?

Despite what the article suggests, I would like to propose two obvious factors for the decline of trust in American society.

1) Mass third world immigration. The US is conspicuously less white than it was forty years ago, less Protestant and less influenced by its founding ethnic groups. These immigrants come primarily from parts of the world that are characterized by tyrannies, capricious rule, and violence: Africa, Latin America, and southern and eastern Asia. So many newer Americans bring their lackof trust with them.

People have a harder time trusting obvious ethnic strangers than they do their own kind, and no amount of preaching about cultural enrichment will change people’s instinctual feelings of caution about people who are conspicuously different. This is not a white-brown thing; it is a phenomenon that works between Ecuadorians and Tamils, Turks and Nigerians, as well as between European whites and others.

2) More importantly, I think,  levels of trust are going down because of arbitrary and capricious laws, enforced by arbitrary and capricious authorities, are creating  a state of uncertainty regarding who can be trusted, when, and with what. Americans talk grandly of a nation of laws but it is actually a nation under the rule of law enforcement officers and ambitious prosecutors. There are so many laws, so badly written by lobbyists, so vague in their intentions, so fulsome in their length, that lawyers play a much greater role in society than they do even in somewhat over-lawyered Canada. Americans cannot be certain of anything in relation to their neighbours, employers, employees, or strangers.Lawyers and law-makers are working day and night to make it that way.

Did you know that in the United States, legislators, and their lobbyist lawyers, actually draft legislation? Thus the chief counsel for Verizon, say, drafts a section of a telecommunications bill alongside a bunch of other high-priced telecom lawyers, who thrash out the meanings and the drafts in late-night sessions, and then present the whole bill to the House or Senate Committee, which then goes through it, and sends it up to the whole Senate or House, but at no time is there a central legislative drafting unit capable of assuring common meanings, common terminologies, or a common style in drafting. A long Canadian statute might be thirty to fifty pages long (saving the Income Tax Act). US statutes are thousands of pages long, written hurriedly by many different pens, frequently with no common purpose among the authors, and no oversight in the legislative process to assure intelligibility, consistency, and brevity. Then the whole mess is sent to a series of appeals, where judicial politicians parse the meaning according to their best reading of conflicting sections and their personal interpretive ideologies. I know this is High Tory dudgeon, but the thought of legislators actually writing legislation without supervision is frightening.

That trust is going down is not to be wondered.

 

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monkey

I would concur on many points. I wonder if the problems with corruption as well a large statist culture in Quebec have something to do with trust as I suspect it would be lower their than in English Canada. Also where would Britain fall? On state owned enterprises Britain has gone from one extreme to another. Prior to Thatcher they were arguably the most nationalized non-communist country in the world, while after Thatcher left they were one of the least nationalized even less so than the US in many ways. So it cannot only be that.

Also third world immigration if done in moderation isn’t necessarily a problem. As long as its not so high one group becomes a majority or a substantial minority. If its at a reasonable size they will have no choice but to assimilate and many do. The Ukrainians in the Prairies, Irish in Central Canada, Italians in Toronto and Montreal, and Germans in Praries and parts of rural Ontario were quite different when they first arrived but now largely indistinguishable from any other Canadian. And this is not just for those from European backgrounds, Japanese Canadians (who are mostly third generation or greater) have also largely fully assimilated too so I tend to believe that immigrants in a couple of generations will adopt the dominate values in Canada.

Dalwhinnie

As an occasional resident in Quebec and one who deals with its governmental practices (paying parking fines) I can assure you that the Quebec government functions towards its citizens with low trust. Measures are taken to escalate penalties for non-payment earlier than they are in Ontario. On the whole, Quebecers (meaning Quebecois) have a greater propensity for ripping off the government too, than in English Canada.
As to your point about Third World immigration, that it would be good if it were in moderation: my reply is this. Many would make argue that US immigration is completely out of control, and targets a lottery of those who first got in when the Immigration Act was reformed in the 1980s. Peter Brimelow has been making this point for decades.see http://www.vdare.com.
I hope new Canadian immigrants adopt the values of this country. I observe that many Muslims are not, and this is a pattern found all over the world.
But the fact that trust is lower in a multiethnic and pluralist society is a demonstrated fact, which, like many facts, is not discussed by liberals or allowed to be discussed by them/.

monkey

I think immigration depends on a few things and is not just a matter of raw numbers.

1. Generally those who are well educated and highly skilled integrate more than low skilled ones. In Canada our problems are mainly with those who came under the family class or refugees as opposed to economic or investor class.

2. Distribution is also important too. In most Western countries the overall immigrant population is not as large as some make it out to be, rather they tend to heavily concentrate in one area thus being a majority or close to in a couple large cities while quite small elsewhere. I like Australia’s system where you get extra points if you settle somewhere other than Sydney or Melbourne. Toronto and Vancouver do not need more immigrants but somewhere like Atlantic Canada if skilled might benefit.

3. Finally there is the type. Those from the Far Eastern countries have generally done the best of non-European groups at integrating while those from Muslim countries the worse. That being said I have met some Muslims who are hardworking outstanding citizens, so banning Muslim immigration is not the solution, but certainly those who wear niqabs or want to maintain values of their home country should be kept out, while still welcoming those who want to assimilate.

As for trust on multi-ethnic states you may very well have a point although in the developed world the only ethnically homogenous country I know of is Japan and they have a strong honour based culture thus meaning you have to be careful on that front.

In sum I could really care less where your ancestors came from or skin colour, as long as one works hard, pays taxes, follows the laws, and accepts our cultural norms I am fine. Its only when they start asking us to change our rules to suit them I am unhappy.

MaryLS

I have always thought that the statist tendencies in Quebec related to its early domination by the Church. They favour an authoritarian type of society.

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