Monday, May 18, 2020


David Johnston was the Governor-General of Canada for seven years.  His basic contention is that the rule of law strives toward justice, but it depends on trust between citizens with the institutions that stand for and serve them.  As I write this we are all being tested with the greatest global shutdown in my lifetime.  We will need to trust one another and our institutions if we are ever to move forward and to be honest there is doubt.  His book "Trust:  Twenty Ways To Build A Better Country" does point us, as individuals and members of larger communities in the right direction.

Each of the ways to build a better country has individual examples and are illustrated with examples from his experience as a securities researcher, university administrator, Governor-General and international diplomat.  This post can only skim over his deeply thought out prescriptions.

Reinhold Niebuhr, a lecturer he heard at Harvard; "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary."

Financial markets that depend on other people's money need to be as open as possible to guard against manipulation.  Listen to all stakeholders; otherwise your proposals may not be acceptable by all those affected.

Be consistent.  Trust takes awhile to be earned.  Unfortunately it can be lost in a flash.

John Helliwel, a Canadian economist and editor of the Happiness Report is credited with the concept that happiness should be the measure by which we gauge the performance of governments and of the progress of countries and people.

Johnston had a long productive discussion with Angela Merkel concerning how the EU (now under stresses) stayed together and she asked about Canada.  Johnston gave out a book that impressed him, "Why Nations Fail" 

He went back to James Michener's book on Spain that helped explain the fall of Spain.  In 1492, the same year Spain had sent Christopher Columbus to America they also started ridding their world renown University of Salamanca of Muslims, then Jews and then scientists that opposed the Church.  
Spain had been an international beacon for education.  When they tossed aside their diversity and instead pursued gold it started their decline.  As Johnston points out diversity is a strength and that inclusion leads to trust.

Teachers are critical to building trust.  While including teachers that may have inspired us Johnston expands to those who have set good examples of how to behave.  He believes we must honour (using his Canadian spelling) and cherish them.  As Governor-General he refined the Canadian system of honouring citizens who have made worthy contributions.

A quote from the author; "The diplomacy of Knowledge is my name for the willingness and ability to work across disciplinary boundaries, cultural barriers and international borders to uncover, share and refine knowledge."  In international surveys Canada is at the top for trustworthiness.

It has been difficult to do justice to this book in a short post.  It requires some profound thinking, but I believe the thoughts expressed are crucial for humanity's future.  Hopefully this slim overview will point my readers in the right direction.

An earlier blog focused on the role of trust with selling which is not just the transfer of goods, but how we sell ourselves to others.

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