Author: Donald F. Kettl

Publisher: Polity Press,

ISBN: 978-1-5095-2245-3

Author, Donald F. Kettl, opens this short read with The Puzzle of Trust. (2017, p.1) He states that trust for our public organizations has dropped ever since the 1960’s. At that time we saw a 77% trust handed to our governments compared to a meager 19% in 2015. (p,5) Those statements take into account the surveying of over twenty eight countries and derives that statistically is about 50% of those surveyed or more distrust their governments. While that may not be surprising given what the vast majority of the news stations report it is somewhat troubling.

Kettl notes that mistrust for governing bodies is not something new. For instance, 1776 was a particularly contentious point in American history where most people had a huge mistrust for King George III and as such pushed us toward creating a “..more perfect union”. And there are numerous examples prior to that timeframe where people did not trust those who were charged with governing.

Citizen’s trust in their governments depends on the trustworthiness of their institutions. Trustworthiness…is cause and effect. Trust begins with citizens’ confidence, based on their previous experiences… The level of trust… frames citizens’ expectations about how well political leaders and their political institutions perform.” (2017, p.40-1)

Furthermore, “Trust and distrust run in cycles.” (2017, p. 49) Kettl says that this distrust is highest when our government reach expands. Regardless of which party is in power our government has grown in leaps and bounds for decades now. Therefore, it is perhaps normal that the people are a bit mistrusting of our government institutions.

What, if anything, can governments do to repair our trust in them? Kettl says that there are two things governments can and should do. They should exercise increased transparency and remedy inequality of incomes amongst her people. Why is this so hard for our government officials to do? Kettl notes many reasons why the government is not always as transparent as the people would like it to be and provides some insight into why we still have issues with inequality, especially where income is concerned.

It is easy to see how the cost of goods and services has risen over the past decades, but we cannot say the same about incomes. There is still huge disparity between pay for like jobs betwixt the sexes and even more disparity between those in the middle to lower classes and that of corporate CEO’s and other upper level management. Therefore, if our government simply treated her citizens better and gave them better service trust for them (those in government service) may increase, but that is not the whole of this tenuous issue.

I learned a few new things reading this book and I believe you will too. However, it is not good enough that we, the people, read this book. It is imperative that our elected officials take a bit of time to read this and see if they care to try to change the tides of mistrust amongt us.