The day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it.

Senator Amidala, Star Wars, Episode II.

In politics trust is almost like money: it has value, you can work to obtain it, you can store it, you can invest it, and you can liquidate it.

Trust makes society (and democracy) possible. Every time we cross a street, every time we put money in a bank, every time we use a credit card, every time we lend a shovel to a neighbor we trust that people won't betray us. If it weren't for mutual trust, we would spend most of our lives protecting our homes and families from each other. Trust is an essential part of business relationships, and explains that even in a globalized world, communities and networks matter.

In a community, there are two ways to protect trust.
  1. knowing who deserves trust by reputation, which requires transparency and a free press. Bankers, who have been long in the business of knowing who to trust and who not to trust, have developed credit reporting to track the financial reputations of almost everyone.
  2. having a justice system to deal with those who betray our trust, cheat, steal, lie, hurt people etc. A community needs to know that bad deeds usually do get punished, or they will cease to give trust, and that in itself is enough to cause social decay.

Trust in institutions is another essential part of society. People deposit money in banks trusting they can get it back, and vote in elections because they trust that thier ballot will eb counted. The authority that institutions have is like the "solid" form of trust, people tend to respect authorities and institutions because they have a track record of being worthy of that trust and respect. Public institutions that serve the people well earn more respect and trust and become more powerful in doing so. The opposite is true, particularly in a failed state or foailed organization where the institutions are all run by untrustworthy people.

sources and resources:

Sharing Water - embodied peer, trust, power terms a paper by Craig Hubley