Can Governments Earn Our Trust?
Can Governments Earn Our Trust?

Some analysts have called distrust the biggest governmental crisis of our time. It is unquestionably a huge problem, undermining confidence in our elected institutions, shrinking social capital, slowing innovation, and raising existential questions for democratic government itself.


What’s behind the rising distrust in democracies around the world and can we do anything about it? In this lively and thought-provoking essay, Donald F. Kettl, a leading scholar of public policy and management, investigates the deep historical roots of distrust in government, exploring its effects on the social contract between citizens and their elected representatives. Most importantly, the book examines the strategies that present-day governments can follow to earn back our trust, so that the officials we elect can govern more effectively on our behalf.

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  • September 2017
  • 160 pages
  • 124 x 190 mm / 5 x 7 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $45.00
  • 9781509522453
  • Paperback $12.95
  • 9781509522460
  • Open eBook $12.95
  • 9781509522491
Table of Contents

1. The Puzzle of Trust

2. The Case for Distrust

3. Earning Trust

4. Blocking Trust


Further Reading

About the Author

Donald F. Kettl is Professor at the Washington DC Center for the LBJ School, at the University of Texas at Austin

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"Kettl’s thoughtful book is well worth the minimal time investment required and is relevant to both practitioners and academics alike. Practitioners can apply Kettl’s recommendations regarding how to earn back trust and come to terms with the rational (even if at times illogical) roots of public distrust of experts. Academics should heed Kettl’s lessons by understanding that even the most rigorous and applicable research will not be useful if the public does not trust the message or the messenger."
Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs

“This short book is incredibly important.  Trust is central to good governance and to promoting equality the world over, yet it is a commodity in short supply. With impressive concision and clarity Kettl lays out the enduring problem of declining trust in government and offers encouraging arguments for its potential resurgence in democratic political systems.”
Marc J. Hetherington, Vanderbilt University

“In an era where the word ‘trust’ is often used without definition, thought, or sincerity, Kettl’s work is a breath of fresh air and a strong contribution to our thinking about trust in government.”
Rosemary O’Leary, University of Kansas

"Timely... well organized, and highly accessible …this book deserves much attention in our field and has set the stage for more future dialogue and a much-needed rethinking of democratic governance in the twenty-first century."
Public Administration Review

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