4.5 Politeness and Legitimacy

Legitimate interactions, defined as those that are both fair and in the common good, are the basis of civilized prosperity (Whitworth & deMoor, 2003) and legitimacy is a core demand of any prosperous and enduring community(Fukuyama, 1992). Societies that allow corruption and win-lose conflicts are among the poorest in the world (Transparency-International, 2001). Legitimate interactions offer fair choices to a parties involved while anti-social crimes like theft or murder give the victim little or no choice. Figure 4.1 categorizes anti-social, social and polite interactions by the degree of choice the other party has.






More choice for the other party





Figure 4.1: Social interactions by degree of choice given

So polite acts are more than fair, i.e. more than the law requires. To follow the law is not politeness because it is required. One does not thank a driver who stops at a red light, but one does thanks the driver who stops to let you into a line of traffic. Laws specify what citizens should do but politeness is what they could do. Politeness involves offering more choices in an interaction than the law requires, so it begins where fixed laws end. If criminal acts fall below the law, then polite acts rise above it (Figure 4.2). Politeness increases social health as criminality poisons it.

Figure 4.2: Politeness is doing more than the law requires