Living in Democracy Without Trust

Democracy is a political system based on trust. By giving the power to the people (or at least to the majorities), you are expecting them to trust whomever they elect to be responsible in the position and make smart decisions regular people are not equipped for. To borrow words from the current head of the United States, sounds good, doesn’t work. A functional democracy is reliant on the people voting in their best interest, to ensure that the government has the best intentions for the needs of the majority, without overlooking the minorities. However, in his TED Talk on ‘Can Democracy Exist Without Trust?”, Ivan Krastev stated that “people who are least interested to vote are the people whom you expect to gain the most out of voting.” And that is because the people have no faith in the system. A whopping 89% of Europeans believe that there is a growing discrepancy between public opinion and the opinion of the policy-makers. One of the suggested causes was that after the market revolution, powerful people are no longer afraid of the masses because they grew so big they are no longer influenced by election outcomes. More problems with this system are described in salimsalimoff7648’s post

Not only people don’t trust the elected officials, they stop trusting each other as well. The internet facilitates the creation of echo chambers, where people only come to contact with those who share their political beliefs, which causes their opinions to become even more stronger and demonizes the opposition and its supporters. The problem this causes is explained in Carlin’s and Love’s article, in fact, the trust gap between voters of different political ideologies is so great it surpasses even greater societal divides, such as race or socioeconomic status, and that is in states where racism still is a prevalent problem.

Ivan Krastev suggested transparency to combat lack of trust in democracy, but immediately shot down the idea himself as counterproductive. The possible outcome would be a “reverse 1984”, where the general public is the Big Brother watching the politicians and all democracy becomes is about managing mistrust. Greater transparency has also been linked to lower voter turnout. One also has to think about the possible interpretation of transparent governmental data. If there is no-one to interpret them, then without context, they could cause more harm than good and magnify the social divide. But with an interpreter, the data and their meaning would be entirely in the hands of the interpreter.

All in all, while transparency doesn’t seem that bad of a solution considering all it’s shortcomings, it still appears to be a better option in the face of it’s opposite; no transparency. But it doesn’t mean there is no solution. Democracy works best if the voters make an educated decision, therefore if we continue to educate our voter population, we will be able to handle transparency, to ensure everyone is indeed voting in their best interest.

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  1. Hey! Thanks for this interesting reading response! I agree, a democratic state can only flourish if almost all of its citizens actively participate in it, e.g. by voting. In your text you talked about political sides segregating themselves from one another, creating a division. I believe that one of the main reasons for this isolation of political sides is lack of discussion and communication. Most often opposing opinions are not debated but rather shut down. If we look at the contemporary higher education in North America we might notice a liberal bias. Often times, conservative, more right-wing opinions are being shut down right from the being instead of being discussed. I truly believe that when people have debates and discussion about controversial topics, that that is the only way that political sides can work together, communicate and create unity instead of division. How do you think we could battle this problem of division?


  2. I really like how you immediately started off by talking about Democracy and how it’s foundation is based off of trust. This is really important thing to understand, especially in terms of the article by Carlin and Love.

    I also agree that transparency might not be an amazing solution, but that it is definitely better than none at all. Additionally, your discussion of educating the voters more, is definitely a step in the right direction and will work much better in the long term for society.


  3. Hi!
    I found it really interesting that you mentioned the discrepancy between public’s and policy-makers’ opinions among European population. I feel the very same way. In my country, what the government said and proposed are considered as lying and covering for true stories by the public. And this assumption is considered true as a default when government release the latest economic growth report, the casualties and loss of some tragic disaster etc.. Nearly every one of young generation I know distrusts every words come from the government.
    Sometimes we think the so-called democracy is only democracy for authority and has nothing to do with public at all. It is so sad that people believe all politicians only consider their own benefits and none of them truly wants to serve the country.


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