Trust Vs Accountability

Interesting commentary in the Washington Post today titled ‘the decline of trust‘ by op-ed columnist Sebastian Mallaby:

In 1995 Francis Fukuyama came out with a book called “Trust,” in which he argued that a society’s capacity for cooperation underpins its prosperity. The same year, Robert Putnam’s famous article, “Bowling Alone,” lamented that the United States was depleting its stock of precious social capital. The question of trust — in government and also in communities — preoccupied politicians too. “It Takes a Village,” Hillary Rodham Clinton urged in the title of her 1996 book, which became a best seller.

You don’t hear much about trust these days. Instead, we want accountability.

There are powerful reasons trust tends to decline and accountability advances. Mobile societies tend to have weak bonds; the Internet makes it easier to hold people accountable and encourages acerbic negativity. And the absence of trust can feed on itself. Leaders function under stifling oversight; this causes them to perform sluggishly, so trust continues to stagnate. But occasionally there is a chance to escape this trap: A shock causes trust to rise, leaders have a chance to lead and there’s an opportunity to boost trust still further.

Interesting dynamics these and it sounds about right. Trust gives an opportunity to establish more trust and lack of trust begets more reasons to not trust…and shock events cause the pendulum to swing from one side to another. What do you think?


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