The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

How can politicians regain public trust?

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  1. Politicians from all parties have commented recently on what they see as an increasing problem of lack of trust on the part of the public in politics and politicians generally. While their perceived reasons vary, all point to the fact that the public feel that at some time and in some way they have been misled by politicians.
  2. When Joseph’s brothers told their father Jacob that Joseph was alive, his heart missed a beat because he didn’t believe them (Bereishis 45:26). But according to the rabbis Jacob had always known that Joseph was alive (Rashi on Bereishis 37:25): so why did he find it difficult when the brothers confirmed that Joseph was alive? The answer is simply this: the brothers had lied to Jacob – and when a confirmed liar tells me the truth, it is more likely to make me doubt the truth than to believe the liar. Because the brothers told him that Joseph was alive, for the first time Jacob wondered whether perhaps he was dead.
  3. So how did the brothers regain Jacob’s trust? The verse in Bereishis 45:26 says they adopted two strategies: (a) they made sure that they told Jacob everything that Joseph had said to them, irrespective of whether or not it reflected well on the brothers, and (b) they made sure that Jacob saw the solid evidence of Joseph’s health and influence, the gifts he had sent. Jacob was quickly satisfied.
  4. If politicians are right that there is a need to regain public trust, they can also adopt these two strategies. Actions speak louder than words, and the public only need to be shown unimpeachable, solid evidence of the performance of promises to regain trust very fast. And if people feel they are being told both the good and the bad, they will be prepared to believe both; if they feel they are being told only the good and not the bad, they will believe neither.

Written by Daniel Greenberg

December 15, 2007 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

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