Trust makes reconciliation possible. That’s what’s led me to my research on trust and society-wide trust, often called social trust. There are a massive number of papers in political science and economics that try to establish the causes and consequences of social trust. I’ve spent the last few years reading them. In light of my work, I’m starting a series of posts on my favorite trust papers, and I hope to share new papers as I read them. If any trust researchers are reading this post, please send me your papers. I can’t promise to post them all, but I’d love for this blog to become a place where you can share your work.
I’ll begin the series by sharing one of my favorite trust papers. I like it in part because it contains a really weird result – monarchies are more trusting than non-monarchies.
The paper explores the determinants of generalized trust across countries. The findings suggest that only few variables can be considered significant. Social polarization in the form of income inequality and ethnic diversity reduces trust, Protestantism and having a monarchy increases trust while post-communist societies are less trusting than other. The findings also provide support for the use of a standard indicator as a stable measure of generalized trust and emphasize the importance of taking endogeneity seriously.
My sense is that monarchy promotes trust because it provides people with a high status, non-partisan person. So people can unite around someone who seems to transcend some salient social cleavages.
The paper has other interesting results too. Protestantism promotes trust. I think the reason is that Protestant countries tend to break up large families, since large families can tempt people to only trust their clan and not their institutions or people from different walks of life. Post-communist societies are less trusting, and here my guess is that communist countries have secret police, so you never know if you can trust someone not to report you and get you sent off to Siberia.