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date: 12 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Trust and trustworthiness reinforce each other, while perceptions of fairness are closely linked to trust. Corruption in the form of untrustworthy behavior, a betrayal of entrusted power, and a breach of interactional or formal justice negatively affects people’s perceptions of fairness and generalized trust. Corruption can be understood as a collective action problem, and social trust can help solve such collective action problems. Empirical studies have found considerable evidence for the reciprocal causal relationship between social trust and corruption. On the one hand, there seems to be a vicious circle of low trust, high corruption, and high inequality, thus creating an inequality trap. On the other hand, there is a virtuous circle of high trust, low corruption, and low inequality, resulting in multiple equilibria. This relationship appears to be very strong in democracies, but not in authoritarian countries.

Keywords: trustworthiness, fairness, collective action problem, reciprocal causal relationship, vicious circle, virtuous circle, multiple equilibria, inequality trap, democracy

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