Can Distrust Bear Fruit?

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 23 2011 @ 11:04am

by Patrick Appel

After watching events unfold in Libya, Felix Salmon zooms out:

Most fundamentally, what I’m seeing as I look around the world is a massive decrease of trust in the institutions of government. Where those institutions are oppressive and totalitarian, the ability of popular uprisings to bring them down is a joyous and welcome sight. But on the other side of the coin, when I look at rioters in England, I see a huge middle finger being waved at basic norms of lawfulness and civilized society, and an enthusiastic embrace of “going on the rob” as some kind of hugely enjoyable participation sport. The glue holding society together is dissolving, whether it’s made of fear or whether it’s made of enlightened self-interest.

John Sides complicates this:

[W]hy is a loss of institutional legitimacy necessarily a crisis?  Some institutions and regimes are illegitimate, and if takes a bad economy to make them fall, then that’s hardly a bad thing.  I don’t think we can generalize about the inherent goodness or badness of legitimacy and illegitimacy or trust and distrust, without thinking about whether any particular institution deserves to be trusted.