A survey of a political and social landscape in which trust, a key element of democracy, is absent.

“In 2017,” writes philosophy professor Vallier, “around 70 percent of Republicans said they distrusted anyone who voted for Hillary Clinton for president; likewise, around 70 percent of Democrats said they distrusted people who voted for Donald Trump.” Given those facts, “it is unclear how a democracy can remain stable under these conditions.” Furthermore, because the current president revels in the “deliberate erosion of norms” and that norm erosion is a key ingredient of mistrust, the instability is ever more obvious. The decline in trust leads to partisan division, which leads to a decline in trust, and income inequality has a decided effect as well. Uncomfortably, Vallier notes in this data-based treatise, there is also some suggestion that restricting immigration reinforces in-group trust among citizens of a given country, which “means we will have to choose between creating trust and mistreating people, which is unfortunate.” In the complex analysis that follows, the author suggests that promoting diversity and reducing segregation have positive effects on trust. To increase that trust, he writes, we must protect democracy, “which reduces corruption and enhances economic and institutional functioning broadly.” That democracy, Vallier adds, best takes the form of “modest welfare state capitalism,” a system that eschews the nationalism of the right and the socialism of the left to insist upon societal norms that inhibit corruption and protect property rights. Some of the author’s arguments are highly provocative, as when he suggests that lawsuits by the injured may be more effective than government regulations, that the right to unionize is a component of welfare state capitalism, and that higher taxes are acceptable as long as there is high “tax morale,” or the sense that tax revenue is not squandered or wasted.

An empirically grounded work of interest to political scientists and policymakers as much as social philosophers.

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-0-19-088722-3

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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