Trust does not merely make for pleasant neighbourhoods; it's good for the economy too, according to Francis Fukuyama. Susan Greenberg applies this thesis to her lifeby Susan Greenberg / October 20, 1995 / Leave a comment
Nothing is more calculated to make you feel world-weary than seeing things you always considered common sense turned into lucrative theory. I felt this when I read Francis Fukuyama’s new book: Trust: the Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity.
He reminds us that trust is not just a vital part of personal relationships: it oils the wheels of a country’s prosperity and its absence imposes a tax, measurable in lawsuits, bureaucracy, crime and unrest.
The US suffers a serious lack of trust. But Fukuyama insists that despite its Lone Ranger image, the country once prospered on its communitarian tradition. Unfortunately, he adds, reality is catching up with legend and the US is running down its store of social capital-the ability to work together for a common purpose-to a point which could endanger its superpower status.
As Fukuyama’s book progresses through detailed examples, the merits of theorising become more evident. But for me it is an old argument. It is the story of my life.
Cut to Heathrow immigration seven years ago. Even though I have lived in London since early childhood and my application for British citizenship is in another queue at the appropriately named Lunar House, I am waiting in the “alien” line. Finally I reach an official, thrust the residency stamp in my blue US passport under his nose and mutter “I live here.” “Why?” he asks, only half-joking. “Why live in England? If I had a US passport, I’d be out of here like a shot.”
Unless you are Rupert Murdoch or Zola Budd and your passport is a business decision, naturalisation has a strange impact on your emotions. It is like marriage: a piece of paper which changes everything. I always joke that, after years of happy cohabiting, I married just to avoid the Heathrow queues. Another reason was European “harmonisation” which made EU nationality a way of avoiding the Paris, Frankfurt and Rome queues as well. It became irresistible when Washington brought in rule changes making it possible at last to hold dual nationality. But the main reason was that I wanted my formal identity to mirror my actual one.
When I arrived in England in 1965, Winston Churchill had just died and Harold Wilson was in power. A teacher at primary school made jokes about how American central heating made you “soft,” while classmates taunted me for being a “Yank and a…