By Francis Fukuyama, Free Press, 8/1/1995, 0029109760 The basic premise is that trust is valuable, because high-trust societies function more efficiently. While there is often trust in families, trust doesn’t develop spontaneously. It’s about cultural history. America is traditionally a high-trust society, because although there’s a lot of talk about individualism, we spend a lot of time volunteering and helping each other. Japan is another high-trust society. The book ends on an odd note, I thought, because it leaves open the question of whether we can restore trust in the U.S. I’m not sure myself, but at least I understand a bit more about why trust is so important to effective societies.

I had quite a few excerpts marked, but these are my two favorites:

[p47] Spontaneous sociability is critical to economic life because virtually all economic activity is carried out by groups rather than individuals. Before wealth can be created, human beings have to learn to work together, and if there is to be subsequent progress, new forms of organization have to be developed.

[p154] In general, the more demanding the values of the community’s ethical system are and the higher are the qualifications for entry into the community, the greater is the degree of solidarity and mutual trust among those on the inside.