The implosion of trust

By Richard Edelman via edelman.com   Article

“It has been a year of unimaginable upheaval. The incumbent party or elected head of state in five of the top 10 global economies (Brazil, Italy, South Korea, U.K., U.S.) has been deposed or defeated. Populist candidates are leading or growing in strength in upcoming elections in France and Germany. The U.K. voted to exit the European Union. There have been violent terrorist acts in Belgium, France, Germany, and the U.S., plus the never-ending tragedy in Syria. Bribery has been exposed at some of Brazil’s leading companies, with CEOs sent to jail. An American unicorn health diagnostics start-up with a sterling board of directors and huge private financing was found to have falsified its clinical trials. The release of the Panama Papers proved tax evasion on a global scale by business moguls and superstar athletes alike. The mainstream media lost audience as its advertising melted away and it confronted the specter of fake news.

The 2017 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER finds that two-thirds of the countries we survey are now ‘distrusters’ (under 50 percent trust in the mainstream institutions of business, government, media and NGOs to do what is right), up from just over half in 2016. This is a profound crisis in trust that has its origins in the Great Recession of 2008. The aftershocks from the stunning meltdown of the global economy are still being felt today, with consequences yet unknown.

Like the second and third waves of a tsunami, ongoing globalization and technological change are now further weakening people’s trust in global institutions, which they believe have failed to protect them from the negative effects of these forces. The celebrated benefits of free trade — affordable products for mass consumption and the raising of a billion people out of poverty — have suddenly been supplanted by concerns about the outsourcing of jobs to lower-cost markets. The impact of automation is being felt, especially in lower-skilled jobs, as driverless trucks and retail stores without cashiers become reality.

We have moved beyond the point of trust being simply a key factor in product purchase or selection of employment opportunity; it is now the deciding factor in whether a society can function. As trust in institutions erodes, the basic assumptions of fairness, shared values and equal opportunity traditionally upheld by ‘the system’ are no longer taken for granted. We observe deep disillusion on both the left and the right, who share opposition to globalization, innovation, deregulation, and multinational institutions. There is growing despair about the future, a lack of confidence in the possibility of a better life for one’s family. The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer finds that only 15 percent of the general population believe the present system is working, while 53 percent do not and 32 percent are uncertain.”

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