Copyright (c) 2002 Cornell Law Review
Cornell Law Review
SYMPOSIUM: GETTING BEYOND CYNICISM: NEW THEORIES OF THE REGULATORY STATECYNICISM AND TRUST IN POLITICS AND CONSTITUTIONAL THEORY
87 Cornell L. Rev. 280
Jonathan R. Macey+
The uneasy juxtaposition of cynicism and trust presents one of the most interesting and profound conundrums in political and constitutional theory. The conundrum is that both cynicism and trust seem vital to the long-term viability of a democracy, despite the fact that they appear to be mutually exclusive concepts.
Trust requires a firm belief in the honesty, reliability, and integrity of another person or institution. According to Francis Fukuyama, "trust is the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms ... ." 1 Trust increasingly is viewed as essential to prosperity and social stability. Trust fosters the growth and development of social capital, which is critical to economic development. 2
By contrast, cynicism entails denying the sincerity of the motives or actions of others. By negating trust, cynicism prevents people from forming what Robert Putnam has described as "civic communities," or communities based on connections other than kinship. 3 Cynicism, which manifests itself in the systematic distrust of institutions, causes people to be less civic-minded, less well-informed about current events, and less inclined to vote or otherwise participate in political life. 4 When cynicism manifests itself in this way, it can undermine democratic institutions and lead to fundamental instability.
But it is wrong to assume that cynicism has no place in a well-ordered constitutional system. In fact, the opposite is true. Cynicism about governmental abuse of power as well as the tendency of interest groups to influence and control ...
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