Quote of the day:
If you can trust the processes of government, then that is a good thing. Good trust in government is based on processes that provide for accountability, checks and balances, equal protection, and punishment of official corruption. (Arnold Kling – EconLog – see also longer entry in TCS Daily)
- Kling distinguishes trust in processes from trust in people (say, the president, the prime minister). Emphasising the the role of processes is basic in all kinds of liberal thinking, not just libertarian. Weberians might want to discuss to what degree processes overlap with rational legitimacy. But we may trust the Dalai Lama because we trust the process of finding a reincarnated Dalai Lama.
- Kling does not discuss the role of outcomes of political processes. There can be many reasons for this: For one, liberals tend to reject the idea of substantive (as opposed to procedural) justice which means that it will not be possible to find measures to evaluate substantive performance against. On the other hand, electoral research has noted that trust in government to some degree variates with the government’s ability to provide transfers or services. The decline in trust for the Swedish government and politicians from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s could serve as a case in point.
I think Kling’s formulation is quite good: You should definitively be able to use it to provoke a discussion in classes in political theory.
And then I’ll just ask a counter-question:
Can you trust the U.S. government after George W. Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence? Or is a revision of the U.S. Constitution to take account of the experiences with the Bush43/Cheney-administration overdue?