Some good news–trust in business is improving

August 3, 2009

Who knows, maybe Edelman’s trust barometer will prove to be an effective leading indicator of world economic conditions. Earlier they reported a dramatic drop in trust in business as well as government. Now they are reporting some significant improvements. The BBC has a summary on this showing the vast difference in trust between influencers in the US and those in India and China.

What are we to make of this improvement and this difference? First, on the difference it is hard for me to not draw a somewhat political conclusion. In both India and China the state has dominated the economy and people’s lives–China more so of course with a fully socialist system. Both of those nations have loosened the fetters on private enterprise and it is not surprising that this fact, combined with other important factors, has resulted in these two economies being the fastest growing and most dynamic on earth in the last while. Even now, China is surprising the world with a remarkable recovery from the global recession and posting significant GDP gains while most are still going backwards. The US on the other hand, is heading in the opposite direction. From a firm commitment to free enterprise and open markets, it is reacting to the collapse of the financial system and the credit markets by adopting government strictures and controls to a degree that seemed impossible to fathom even a year or two ago. Who would have thought that our president and Congress would be determing the CEOs of our largest corporations, thinking about passing laws that would determine executive pay, deciding which models of cars our factories would build and deciding on political bases of course which factories to keep open and which to close. It is unimaginable.

People have to put their trust in something, in someone. When strong controlling governments haven’t delivered the prosperity and hope that people in India and China long for, they have put more trust in business. When our trust in business was dashed by the greed, dishonesty and rapacious behavior not just of the Bernie Madoffs but in the heads of respected banks, insurance companies and manufacturers, we have tended to put our hope in government. But that hope and trust is being tested as well–and as confidence in governments ability to provide for all our hopes and needs without bankrupting us all and especially our children wanes, then perhaps some hope and trust in business will return.

I don’t know–what do you think is going on?

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