This chapter explores the factors that operate at a societal level to build or destroy social trust. The analysis is based on unique data about the quality of public institutions at the regional level within the EU, and the authors test the tenability of four common explanations for variations in social trust: economic inequality, ethnic diversity, the quality of public institutions, and the degree of political participation by citizens. The analysis shows that the quality of public institutions is the strongest factor underlying regional variations in trust within countries. Economic inequality also proves to be a factor to be reckoned with for explaining variations in social trust. By contrast, the degree of ethnic diversity and the extent to which citizens participate politically have less importance for variations in trust. The overall conclusion is that increasing the quality of public institutions should have first priority if our aim is to reduce the prosperity gap between countries and regions in Europe.
The Social Challenge Ahead
Nicholas Charron and Bo Rothstein
A Comparative Study of Good Government in EU Regions
Corporate Engagement in Politics and Governance
Even if competitive markets have shown themselves to be the most efficient organizational form for creating economic efficiency, the question of how they can avoid destructive influence from agents with opportunistic motives remains unresolved. Different institutional approaches have argued that to be efficient, markets need to be embedded in a set of formal and informal institutions. Because such institutions will in the long run make all market agents better off, they are labelled efficient institutions. Contrary to what is argued in neoclassical economics, it is unlikely that market agents will create such institutions endogenously because the institutions are to be understood as genuine public goods. Moreover, if such institutions have been established, we should expect market agents to face a collective action problem when sustaining them, leading to the destruction of the institutions. The conclusion is that if left to themselves, markets should be understood as inherently self-destructive.