Amidst the heartbreaking devastation in Japan, many have noticed (especially this blog from the Telegraph) how much social solidarity -- and little stealing -- there has been. The Telegraph blogger Ed West notes vending machine owners giving out free drinks, in contrast to large-scale looting after Katrina. Economists have been saying for a while that trust is a good candidate to be a major determinant of development. Think how much contract enforcement is critical to make trade and finance possible. Think how much easier contract enforcement is when nobody tries to cheat. This is supported by empirical studies correlating per capita income with a measure of trust, like that shown below, which is computed as ...oh forget that, the current example is much more compelling.
Responding to tragedy, the Japanese have resources because they are rich, and it was their social solidarity that helped get them there.
HT Karina Zannat for pointing me to this.