Low trust families, communities and societies are less happy, less flourishing and less cooperative. Low trust social environments tolerate higher degrees of Social Darwinism, where life is a struggle for survival and taking down others seems necessary for the promotion of ourselves. I think of such low trust social environments as bottles filled with scorpions – each stinging the other in a struggle to escape confinement.
Levels of trust are low among Americans these days.
As Father John Langan of the Jesuit Community at Georgetown University commented to me recently, our recent American presidential campaign was partially an exercise in the destruction of social capital and was a product of inadequate social capital.
According to the Economist:
"America, which has long defined itself as a standard-bearer of democracy for the world, has become a 'flawed democracy' according to the taxonomy used in the annual Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister company. Although its score did not fall by much—from 8.05 in 2015 to 7.98 in 2016—it was enough for it to slip just below the 8.00 threshold for a 'full democracy.' It joins France, Greece and Japan in the second-highest tier of the index. The downgrade was not a consequence of Donald Trump, states the report. Rather, it was caused by the same factors that led Mr. Trump to the White House: a continued erosion of trust in government and elected officials, which the index measures using data from global surveys. In total, it incorporates 60 indicators across five broad categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties."
Levels of trust are also low around the world.
History of the decline of Trust; Edelman
The Edelman Trust Barometer released earlier this month makes this point.