Trust is fundamental to the workings of the world. Without it, nothing would ever function – sales, businesses, public services, healthcare etc. Politics is no different. Trust is fundamental – but how much of it? These are musings we explore in our new documentary called ‘The Trust Crisis’, made in collaboration with a group of leading academics in the field, TrustGov.
Trust is a fascinating concept. With a doctor, you’d want to trust them pretty much totally in order to put your life into their hands. Yet in the political sphere, this is rather different – you surely would not want to blindly trust a politician? This could let them lead a country completely astray and get away with murder – literally. Politics at its essence is about disagreement and clashes of opinion and democracy is about fair representation of those different opinions in government.
Therefore to have healthy democracies, we should not let ourselves be brainwashed into placing too high trust in politicians, but rather have a healthy level of cynicism and question those in power. Accountability is key to a healthy democracy.
Interestingly, in some of the least democratic countries where despotism prevails, some of the highest levels of political trust in the world are recorded. Think China, Russia, Vietnam… That is surely not a model we’d want to follow.
But then the supposed bastion of democracy, the U.S., has a very low level of political trust – just 14% of citizens trust government, according to the World Values Survey/European Values Study (on Confidence in Parliament). And they are living through an increasingly polarized quasi civil war of Republicans vs. Democrats.
Perhaps the ideal then should be a sort of base level of trust that allows politics to work and for citizens to have hope that change can be made in the world, but with just enough cynicism to monitor those in power and ensure they are held accountable for any wrongdoings and abuse of power.
But I guess you’ll have to watch our new documentary to find out…