Trust, By Marek Kohn

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The Independent Culture

The hardback of this lucid and illuminating essay on the social virtue we most miss came out before meltdowns of confidence in both the banking and parliamentary systems made it even more urgent. Starting from a child's trip to the shop, and the "thick carpet of trust" in people, laws and technologies that underlies everyday events, Kohn gathers evidence from history and philosophy, biology and game theory.

He accounts for all the benefits of trust – and the steep costs of its absence. With many stimulating cases, from the "live and let live" strategies of First World War troops to the Mafia's impact on Palermo radio taxis, Kohn shows that trust "enhances relations of all kinds" - as its loss damages health. Crucially, he asks if rising choice and diversity erode the easy trust of more "homogeneous" times. Prejudice and poverty also dissolve bonds – but the challenge remains, a stone in the liberal shoe.