Dear CBG Faculty, Fellows, Staff and Friends:
There has been a marked increase in public distrust
of major social institutions in the past year. CBG has been exploring
this critical issue, on which so much else in society depends.
On April 23, Cary Coglianese, Jennifer Nash, and
Bernie Cahill organized a Regulatory Policy
Program panel discussion entitled "Whistle
Blowers: Dissent Within Organizations." The panel featured
FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who has been praised for her public questioning
of the FBI's handling of the Zacarias Moussaoui case in the weeks
leading up to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Rowley pointed
out how difficult it was to speak out about concerns she had with
decisions that had been made by her employer, particularly because
the FBI relies heavily on the trust of the American people. Ultimately,
however, Rowley explained that many people's personal sense of
integrity impels them to voice their concerns, preventing potentially
harmful situations even at the expense of their own careers.
From April 24-26, Iris
Bohnet led a seminar on "Trust and Institutions."
This seminar featured the presentation of a paper by Bohnet and
Richard Zeckhauser entitled "Trust,
Risk and Betrayal," which explores the factors that affect
an individual's decision to trust an anonymous stranger. Other
presentations focused on cross cultural differences in individual's
willingness to trust, and trust and pricing in customer markets.
In China, SARS has profoundly affected the new
government. As CBG's Joan Kaufman explained in her April
27 article in the Washington Post, the Chinese government
downplayed the danger of the disease in order to prevent public
panic and to avoid scaring away business and tourists. There are
no checks and balances within the government, no watchdog agencies,
and no free press to challenge the government's response or even
to make the public aware of the impending danger. This lack of
transparency not only allowed government officials to make policy
decisions that ultimately had a detrimental effect on the health
of its citizens and the Chinese economy, but it was also counterproductive.
Workers who were told to stay in Beijing fled into the countryside,
bringing SARS into precisely the areas where the health care system
is least equipped to handle it.
Professor Alan Whiteside from the University of
Natal's Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division visited
CBG this month to speak about the implications of HIV/AIDS in
South Africa and other countries with alarmingly high prevalence
rates. Similar to China, many South Africa government officials
have a record of publicly denying the severity of the HIV/AIDS
problem in their country and avoiding responsibility for taking
action. As the people's trust in the government's ability to respond
to issues related to HIV/AIDS wanes, one potential strategy to
bolster the existing infrastructure in South Africa is the formation
of partnerships with the business sector. We are pleased that
Professor Whiteside will be participating in the next "HIV/AIDS
and Business in Africa and Asia: Building Sustainable Partnerships"
workshop sponsored by CBG on June 9-10 in Durban, South Africa.
The upcoming month promises to be a busy one here
at CBG. Bill Hogan and the
Harvard Electricity Policy Group are hosting their thirty-first
plenary session on May 21-22. Robert
Stavins will be leading an executive education program for
managers and policy makers on "Understanding Environmental
Economics." We will also bid farewell to twelve CBG Fellows
as they complete their research projects here at the Kennedy School
and move on to new endeavors.
Valuing trust in institutions and maintaining
open channels of communication between different sectors is at
the core of what we do at CBG. I hope you will visit our website
to learn more about our activities and how you might be able to
Have a great spring - now that it's finally here.
John G. Ruggie
Weil Director, Center for Business and Government
Kirkpatrick Professor of International Affairs