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Why Americans Trust CEOs More Than Politicians
By Joe Jarvis - February 12, 2018

Just 15% of Americans think the government will bring us to a better future. 59% say the government is the most broken institution, followed by 21% who think the media is the worst.

On the other hand, 29% of Americans think NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are the most likely institutions to lead to a better world followed by 22% who say businesses will take us where we need to be.

Trust in government is near all-time lows, as we pointed out the other day.

But trust in employers is growing according to the Edelman Trust Barometer annual survey.

The employer is the safe house in global governance, with 72 percent of respondents saying that they trust their employer to do what is right. By nearly a two-to-one margin, a company is trusted to take specific actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions.

There are new expectations of corporate leaders. Nearly 7 in 10 respondents say that building trust is the No. 1 job for CEOs, ahead of high-quality products and services. Nearly two-thirds say they want CEOs to take the lead on policy change instead of waiting for government, which now ranks significantly below business in trust in most markets.

Trust is a valuable commodity for a business. It is something they will take pains to earn and retain.

Maybe you don’t trust those motivated by profit. But when people don’t trust a company, the company’s profits fall. Earning trust is necessary to earning profits.

Company leaders have the opportunity to make significant changes in the structure of society. They can offer employees and customers what the government can’t–or won’t–deliver. And the best part is that private companies have a profit incentive to deliver in a transparent honest way.

The next big market wave will be products that replace and compete with government services.

Cryptocurrencies are young and still have many issues. But they have heralded the coming upset in the financial system, which is the rock upon which the government builds its power.

Private towns and communities are growing more popular as the public loses trust in traditional cities to deliver basics like clean water and safe streets.

Businesses are springing up solving all the problems that government has not.

Of course, there will be untrustworthy people in every walk of life. Certainly, some businesses and CEOs are not trustworthy. But there are reasons private businesses are more likely to be trustworthy than government institutions.

Relationship with Business

The citizen-government relationship is not consensual. We are at the government’s mercy, whether we like it or not.

But there is always another business we can patronize or work for. The customer’s ability to withdraw support is a major motivator of good behavior. People need to be able to exit relationships in which they do not see the value.

People don’t mind having leaders, but they want to be able to pick them. No, not through a majority wins vote where about half the population is forced to live with the leader chosen by a slim majority. Individuals value the freedom of association to choose who deserves their trust.

Expert voices across business registered broad gains in credibility, with the net effect of technical experts, financial industry analysts, and successful entrepreneurs all enjoying credibility levels of 50 percent or higher today. Government officials or regulators are the least credible at 35 percent…

The difference is clear: entrepreneurs have earned their place. Experts and analysts are judged based on the quality of their information.

Government officials and regulators can get their positions by playing politics. And then we are subject to their power. They don’t have to appeal to our intellect or make an argument for why their rules are beneficial. What they say is backed up by the government’s guns. You accept it, or else.

The Zero-Sum Game

Because the government is funded through involuntary taxation, it is a zero-sum game. Money that the government spends cannot be spent by the private sector, from where it derives. A government job means one fewer job in the private sector.

But business is not a zero-sum game. Businesses create wealth, they don’t take it from others. When people spend their money, they are trading value. If you buy something from a company, it means you value that good or service more than the money which it costs.

When a company earns profits, it is good for the employees and the shareholders. But it is also good for the customers. It means companies can cut prices, or put resources into research and development for new and better products. When private wealth grows, everyone benefits.

If you doubt that wealth can be created, plant a garden. Your time and labor spent manipulating the earth and adding water grows into a product worth more than the sum of what went into it. That is wealth creation. You didn’t have to take it from anyone, and there is no limit to how much can be made.

When your neighbor steals half your veggies “for the good of the neighborhood,” that is government.

Who can you trust?

The overall lesson from the report is that Americans trust no one. Big institutions have lost the trust of Americans by being manipulative. That sounds a little depressing. But it has a silver lining.

Self-reliance and individualism made America great in the first place. By going back to the foundation of personal responsibility, we can quickly rebuild the trust we have in our peers.

When we see on a personal level that someone is competent, self-motivated, and productive, we can build trusted partnerships. Voluntary partnerships. Partnerships where we are not enslaved to the other party, where we are free to take our business elsewhere if they do something to lose our trust.

With every interaction and partnership, you can build a trusted network for yourself and those around you. That is what freedom of association allows, the ability to organize your life as you see fit.

Trust yourself. You have the ability to assess whether a business or an organization is providing you with what you need. And as soon as a business stops delivering or loses your trust, you can sever ties completely. The same goes for media, and even friends.

Unfortunately, you cannot disassociate with the government completely without them turning violent towards you. But the trends suggest they are losing the trust and support of the people. Don’t underestimate the power of individuals.