December 2016
Trust Broken
By John Fullerton
Image Courtesy of www.ukcolumn.org

At this year's World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland, PR firm Edelman shared its comprehensive annual Trust Barometer, confirming what we all know: global trust in institutions and leaders is at an all-time low. Fully two-thirds of countries are now considered "distrusters" (under 50% trust in the mainstream institutions of business, government, media and NGOs to do what is right), compared to about half a year ago. This is a stunning collapse in trust, even from last year's low base.

Trust in leadership is equally low. Only 37 percent of the general population believe CEOs are credible, even worse for government officials - 29 percent credible. A paltry 15 percent believe the system is working. Ironically, it was Chinese Premier Xi, in his first address at Davos, who stood in defense of globalization (quoting Abraham Lincoln, it should be said), arguing that the system is sound, but it is (Western democratic) governance that has failed. Note China ranked second on the trust index, second only to India.

Talk about a humbling moment (if that's possible) at the annual gathering of the global economic and political elite.

There was lots of talk this year at Davos about "inclusive capitalism" (Jack Ma actually puts substance behind the slogan in his must-watch interview - a great example of Alibaba's seemingly regenerative business model in service to its network partners rather than extracting from them). But the "inclusive capitalism" talk included little honest analysis of the root cause of this stunning collapse in trust, why it is so dangerous (the rise in extreme forms of authoritarian populism rooted in emotion more than evidence and its unpredictable path), and what if anything can be done about it at this late date.
  
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