Tolstoy thought unhappy families were unique in their unhappiness.

But when it comes to countries, these days the world’s gloomy ones have a lot in common. From Fukushima to Athens, and from Washington to Wenzhou, China, the collective refrain is that government doesn’t work.

“2011 will be the year of distrust in government,” said Richard Edelman, president and chief executive of Edelman, the world’s largest independent public relations firm.

For the past decade, Mr. Edelman has conducted a global survey of which institutions we have confidence in and which ones are in the doghouse. In 2010, the villains were in the private sector — from BP, to Toyota, to Goldman Sachs, corporations and their executives were the ones behaving badly.

But this year, Mr. Edelman said, we are losing faith in the state: “From the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, to the government’s response to the earthquake in Japan, from the high-speed rail crash in China, to the debt ceiling fight in Washington, people around the world are losing faith in their governments.”

Even the Arab Spring, Mr. Edelman mused, was an extreme expression of the same breakdown in the people’s support for those who rule them.