restricted access 13. The Open Society of the Twenty-First Century
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PART IV Conclusion PAGE 179 .......................... 10897$ PRT4 08-31-04 10:08:34 PS PAGE 180 .......................... 10897$ PRT4 08-31-04 10:08:34 PS C H A P T E R 1 3 o THE OPEN SOCIETY OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY Overcoming the Crisis in Trust We began this discussion by suggesting that the open society of the twenty-first century will have the best chance to remain vibrant, robust, and secure if it is willing to lower the walls that separate us and embrace greater transparency. Instead of a world where people walk around cloaked in anonymity and where the desire for privacy shields those engaged in terror and other abhorrent acts, this book has presented a case for a society where technology makes openness the norm, where public actions, including those of our leaders, are exposed to more scrutiny, and where privacy, while still respected, is more circumscribed and narrowly defined. Although on the surface, this view of American society may appear to be little more than a sacrifice of privacy at the altar of technology, the movement toward greater openness is about something much more fundamental. At its core, it is about restoring the value of trust to its rightful and necessary place in life. Trust has always been an essential component of a civil society. Whenever people have formed agreements, contracts, and other arrangements for living and working together, there has been a need to know that others will act in accord with what they say. Francis Fukuyama in Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity describes trust as a fundamental ingredient of prosperity.1 Cultures PAGE 181 181 .......................... 10897$ CH13 08-31-04 10:10:02 PS 182 Chapter 13 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • with low levels of trust like those in Latin America, for example, find it difficult to evolve from an economy of family-run businesses to one of thriving, large-scale, corporate enterprises needed to sustain a modern economy. In countries where there are higher levels of trust, like the United States or Japan, citizens are more likely to arrange themselves spontaneously into organizations of increasing richness and complexity , ranging from church groups and professional associations to global conglomerates. Trust thus contributes to what social scientists like Fukuyama call social capital, or the level of social connectedness in a society. Researchers have paid much more attention to the concept of trust over the last few decades and have documented the precipitous fall in its levels in America. In a much publicized article published in 1995 entitled Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putnam used historical data to suggest that America’s stock of social capital and trust, which had been flourishing throughout most of the twentieth century, began to decline in the 1960s as fewer people joined civic organizations like bowling clubs, unions, and volunteer groups.2 Putnam points out that national surveys that ask people whether they usually trust or are wary of others show the same level of decline over the last quarter century. If trust was already in a tenuous state in America, the 9/11 attacks struck a blow as deadly as those that hit the Twin Towers to what remained of it. The confidence that society put into individuals like alMihdhar and al-Hamzi by opening its borders and neighborhoods was betrayed the moment the two chose to hijack an airplane and turn it into a missile. The very goal of terrorism, to cause people fear and anxiety , undermines their basic ability to trust. How many people since 9/11 have been guilty of looking at a dark-skinned Arab on an airplane and feeling a fleeting pang of trepidation? There have always been and always will be times when the public’s trust is breached. The fact that there is a need for trust in the first place, that there isn’t a guarantee of a desired outcome, by its very nature means that there can be no assurance that a person will uphold his or her end of the agreement. You may expect a car to stop at the intersection you’re crossing, but short of taking all cars off the road, there is no way to be certain that you won’t end up in a violent car crash. There are simply risks associated with living in society, and we must accept them if we plan to go on living. This is not to say that we cannot do our...


Subject Headings

  • Privacy, Right of -- United States.
  • Electronic surveillance -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Social control -- United States.
  • War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.
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