It’s the best way to ensure that elites start behaving better and to restore public trustby Bo Rothstein , Lennart Levi / November 18, 2016 / Leave a comment
The election of Donald Trump is just one example of what we are witnessing in many democracies around the world, namely a new type of popular anger against political and economic elites. Populist and xenophobic political parties and movements have been quick to exploit this feeling. In his surprisingly successful campaign, Trump accused his opponent and her party of systemic corruption, a message that obviously had an appeal.
However accurate that particular charge may be, trust in government is at an all-time low in many countries. In the UK, the Chilcot inquiry and the parliamentary expenses scandal have eroded faith in politicians. Internationally, we have also seen ethically dubious behaviour in the business world, for example in the Panama Papers and the Volkswagen scandal, and in international bodies such as Fifa. All these events have left many people believing that elites lack an adequate ethical compass.
There is a perception that current society is deeply unjust because elites are not acting for the common good, but are instead arranging things to benefit themselves and their allies. The behaviour of economic and political elites is central to overall social cohesion. Unless those who lead and carry responsibility for society’s key functions are perceived as honest and trustworthy, general trust in society will also fall. And a fairly high level of interpersonal trust is essential to a well-functioning and prosperous society.