AbstractDemocracies typically impose onerous regulation on the conduct of bureaucratic officials and remarkably light regulation of the conduct of elected officials. The traditional presumption was that politicians should be allowed to self-regulate. In many democratic regimes, politicians have shown themselves unable to carry this burden of public trust. As a result, political ethics is regulated from a perspective of public distrust, associated with fears of political corruption. Despite my personal reservations about professional ethics models (recorded here by reference to recent fictional work of novelist J.M. Coetzee), I revive a trust-based perspective to make a case for a regime of self-regulation for democratic politicians, based on a democratic hope that politicians can be trusted to act as responsible professionals.