We are careening dangerously from a high-trust to a low-trust society. We trust one another less, we trust government and other mediating institutions less. This trend, which like many of our pathologies predates and arguably helped give rise to the Trump presidency, has ominous consequences.
High-trust societies have lower transaction costs, lower crime rates and less corruption. People are nicer and better behaved when they’re reasonably confident that the local grocer won’t steal their credit card information and the IRS won’t audit them based on their politics.
Low-trust countries are clannish, unable to develop the civil institutions of a free society, and those in power tend to use government authority like a club to punish political enemies. The resulting disorder builds demand for strongmen, for more centralized state power. None of this is good.
When President Trump accuses Democrats, without evidence, of “electoral corruption” in the Arizona Senate race (even as the local Republican candidate handles her loss with dignity), he is behaving like a caudillo from a low-trust country. When Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) says Republicans “can’t win elections fairly; they win elections by redistricting and reapportionment and voter suppression,” he too is contributing to the very dysfunction he claims to resist .