Trust in the Decent Society

JVF Conference Papers

The decent society is one with respect at its heart. In the decent society, institutions and their agents, such as policemen, judges, clerks and doctors do not humiliate the citizens.

Decent society is thus built not only on freedom, but on freedom with honour. As such, it invites trust. Obviously, public institutions that do not humiliate the citizenry will be much more readily trusted than those that provide their services in a negligent and disrespectful manner. Furthermore, a society built upon trust in the word of the other, and in which promises are kept, will be more decent than a society that lacks basic respect for a person’s word. The interconnection between trust and decency also operates in the opposite, negative, direction: distrust creates humiliation, and humiliation creates distrust. An employer who distrusts his employees will incessantly monitor and check them; a distrustful husband can be tempted to breach his wife’s privacy, and a father who mistrusts his children will try to control them and dictate what they do.

Even these brief, preliminary examples suffice to show that trust and decency are closely and deeply interrelated, and that the knot bounding it is the knot of respect.

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