Social trust has been shown to have a number of positive effects. Societies in which a large part of the population believes that “in general, most people can be trusted” have higher levels of prosperity, better working democratic institutions and scores higher on almost all standard measures of human well-being. Yet, the main theory of how social trust is generated which pointed at activity in civil society organizations has been empirically refuted. In this article, an alternative theory is presented pointing at the importance of impartial, un-corrupt and fair government institutions for generating social trust. This “corruption-trust” theory is supported by a number of recent empirical studies. As the theory predicts, low levels of social trust is mainly generated by partisan, corrupt and unfair government institutions implying that “the fish roots from the head down”.


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pp. 1009-1032
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