Creating Social Trust in Post-Socialist Transition by János Kornai, Bo Rothstein, Susan Rose-Ackerman (eds.)

By János Kornai, Bo Rothstein, Susan Rose-Ackerman (eds.)

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Extra info for Creating Social Trust in Post-Socialist Transition (Political Evolution and Institutional Change) by Janos Kornai (2004-06-01)

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14 Bo Rothstein The reason Scandinavians trust their public authorities in general, and their system of social welfare and social insurance in particular, cannot be explained solely by the quality of their representative democratic systems. The reason for this is simple:Trust in politicians, political parties, and their parliaments have gone down quite dramatically since the 1980s (Holmberg 1999). This implies that the high level of social trust in the Scandinavian countries and the high-level confidence Scandinavians have in their public authorities cannot be explained simply by referring to the quality of the representative democratic institutions in these countries.

A higher percentage of African American citizens than other Americans believe that AIDS was deliberately spread by the government, that the government spreads drugs to minority groups, and that the FBI murdered Martin Luther King, to give just a few examples (Goertzel 1994). My institutional theory on how social trust is created may be consistent with Eric Uslaner’s (2002) results emphasizing childhood socialization processes. The great variation in social trust between social groups and countries implies that parents’ communications cannot be randomly invented by them.

As compelling as Rothstein’s argument seems, it is misplaced. Rothstein’s evidence for a linkage between trust in the legal system and faith in others comes entirely from one rather atypical Western democracy, Sweden. The Swedish model may not transfer to formerly communist nations. Even if there is a connection between a strong legal system and trust in fellow citizens, the causal direction is more likely to go from faith in others to confidence in the law (Uslaner 2002: 243–5). Swedes and other Westerners can develop strong legal systems because people trust each other.

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