Trust as Pitfall

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Trust as a Pitfall

The recent resignation of the Dutch Minister and the state secretary of Justice and Security has all to do with trust. The reason for their resignation was a forgotten deal 15 years ago with a criminal. The then prosecutor was the current state secretary and he didn’t remember whether he paid € 1,5 of € 4 million, even when proof of the transaction was shown on television. Trust, we learned from this case, is a tricky word and often confused with loyalty. You trust someone who means well and therefore does well. In a worst case scenario you become susceptible for blackmail. You don’t know what the other will do with your trust. A difficult situation arises when the other does something he knows you won’t expect. He is ashamed about it and keeps the incident or error hidden. It seems the incident will disappear forever. We often expect entrustment and loyalty, especially when we esteem ones’ personal integrity. To some extent that’s right. The Mayor of Amsterdam has stated that governing is people’s work, also on the highest level.

To Be Honest, you need support

Too much trust includes a risk, as the resignation of these two government ministers made clear. Next to their honesty, people do have their eccentricity. Especially when they are in power. Both politicians were ironically known as ‘Crime fighters’, but were not able nor willing to admit an error. They ignored the facts or keep asking for entrustment. This € 4 million case grew out to be an inescapable trap. We don’t know if the civil servants at their department withheld information or that the ministers ignored the warnings of their employees. This case makes it clear that public government is nothing without transparency and openness. Next to a culture of commenting on each other, an independent press as an irritant for administrators – regardless how merciless they are towards those involved – is indispensable for democracy and the rule of law.

Henk Bruning

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