Friday, May 28, 2010

Is America Too Big To Trust?

Today I was listening to the radio and I heard a segment about the lack of confidence people have in America's big institutions such as corporations and government.  The presenter said surveys have shown a steady decline in the trust we put into our government and the companies we do business with.

As I thought about it, I think I know why...well at least a few of the reasons.

When was the last time you thought of our government as personal?  Do you know your banker personally? (Who are we kidding, how many of us actually have a personal banker???)  Do you have a personal connection with the grocery store you shop at, the clothing store you frequent or the station you buy gas from?  Are you loyal to them, and are they loyal to you?

As a small business owner I know the name of every person who orders from me.  If you write me, I recognize your name.  If you have a problem, I have a vested interest in fixing it, and I have the authority to do that.

If your local grocery store stops carrying the foods you want, the manager has no authority to order it.  If the bank doesn't offer the loan you need, the manager has no power to change the terms.  If you notice the price of your gas is up from yesterday the clerk can't tell you why.

We have become separated from the people we interact with.  If no one has the power to fix a problem, right a wrong or even explain a change, then how can we trust them?  They don't have the power to stand behind their actions or words.

Trust is something you earn by demonstrating integrity and honesty.  We have plenty of examples of people being dishonest in business and government.  In fact much of our current financial situation can be boiled down to a lack of integrity.

When our business system has grown to the point that owners and CEO's no longer need to be accountable to the people they serve, I suggest lack of trust is inevitable.  When I look a person in the eye and ask them if they are doing the best they can, they have a choice to tell me the truth, or lie.  They have to make that choice and they know their decision is important.  If no one asks that question no one will ever know the answer.

I suggest that if we want to trust the companies we do business with and the government we elect, then we need to find a way to interact personally with them.  The "how" will depend on the company, the government office, and the community. Being big isn't an excuse for being impersonal. 

Trust is important.  It is the foundation of civilization.  It is part of our humanity.  America can't afford to lose the trust of the people.  Not now.  Not ever.

No comments:

Post a Comment