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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:32 03/09/2007
Debate: Comment (April 14, 2003)

Comment on Professor Kumon's Article, "Japanese Culture of Trust and Caring"

Ronald Dore (Professor, University of London)

I do thoroughly agree with Professor Kumon. An atmosphere of "generalised trust" in society is an immensely important element in the quality of life. I still live in a part of Italy where sometimes I lock my door when I go out and sometimes forget or don't bother. It is possible to be that much "generally trusting". I still remember the moment, in 1968, as a bike rider around London, when I had my second bicycle stolen and decided that I had to do something I had never done before—buy a lock and chain and never leave it unlocked. The sixties were a period of rapid decline in generalised trust in Britain – the prelude to the election of Margaret Thatcher.

And I do agree that the level of "generalised trust" in a society is much affected by the level of interpersonal trust in on-going economic transactions and on the degree of individual "trustworthiness" which the instititutions of the society assume people to have. That is precisely the reason why, over the past decade, I have been an enemy of all those "reformers" who have sought:

1. To bring an end to the "convoy system" of mutual aid and mutual trust between banks,
2.To force dissolution of cross-shareholding arrangements,(remember the "trusting mutuality" implied by the ai of mochiai),
3 To force deregulation to the point of destroying industry associations and not just stop conspiracies against the public but also those forms of inter-competitor collaboration which are favourable for consumers as well as mutually beneficial for producers.
4. To import all those American institutions of corporate governance which are based on the assumption that corporate executives are never to be trusted, and hence need constant surveillance by shareholders, external directors, and financial regulators.

So please, Professor Kumon, use your great influence to point out to these kaikakusha reformers the connection between all these things and "generalised trust" as a crucial component of a high quality of life. One footnote: I think it is significant that you use the apt example of the trustingness of a baby when you speak of the virtues of trust. One of the things that strikes me about Japanese "reformers" of the kind mentioned above, is their insistence that they are more (a) grown-up and (b) masculine than the people they criticise. Machismo is the name of the reformers' game.

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