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Political LegitimacyNOMOS LXI$
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Jack Knight and Melissa Schwartzberg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479888696

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479888696.001.0001

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Trustworthy Government and Legitimating Beliefs

Trustworthy Government and Legitimating Beliefs

(p.362) 12 Trustworthy Government and Legitimating Beliefs
Political Legitimacy

Margaret Levi

NYU Press

A trustworthy government is one that keeps its promises (or has exceptionally good reasons why it fails to), is relatively fair in its decision-making and enforcement processes, and delivers goods and services. A legitimate government is one that appeals to widely accepted justifications for its selection, maintenance, and policies. Investigations across history and countries reveal that the more trustworthy the government, the more likely it is to evoke observation of its laws and acquiescence to policies. Less clear is the link between perceptions that government is trustworthy and beliefs that it is legitimate, at least in countries claiming or trying to be democratic. Being trustworthy in practices and outcomes may contribute to perceptions of government legitimacy. However, trustworthiness is, at best, a necessary but not sufficient condition for legitimating beliefs. This chapter explores the relationship between the trustworthiness of government and its legitimacy by considering cases from both advanced democracies and state-building efforts. It argues that current democracies may need to refashion their moral economies—the extra-market reciprocal rights and obligations that link populations, governments, corporations, and all the other various organizations that make up the society—if they are to reestablish strong grounds for legitimacy.

Keywords:   legitimacy, trust, trustworthiness, moral economy

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