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The Fall of Institutionalism by Oliver DeMille

The Fall of Institutionalism by Oliver DeMille

March 13th, 2015 // 11:02 am @

A Major Change in America

big-brother-posterWe have a trust crisis in America. Specifically, we don’t trust our major institutions. For example, consider the current American view of government. A Gallup poll asked, “How much of the time do you think you can trust government in Washington to do what is right?”

The response? Only 19% of Americans highly trust government “most of the time.” And, a full 81% don’t trust the government to do the right thing most of the time. That’s huge.

In a 2013 Pew Research Center Poll, 53% of Americans said that the federal government “threatens their personal rights and freedoms.” In fact, for the most part, the more educated people are, the less they believe “Washington will do the right thing most of the time.”

When asked “which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future: big business, big labor, or big government?,” only 26% said big business while 64% said big government. And 83% of Americans said they are “dissatisfied” with “the way the nation is being governed.”

But is doesn’t stop with Washington.

Trust and Angles

Only 25% of Americans have high “trust in the police,” the same amount as those who have great trust in churches/organized religion. A mere 17% have high trust in the medical system, and even less, 12%, have such trust in the public schools. The percentage with high trust in the banks is 10. As important as these institutions are in modern American life, these numbers are dismal.

Indeed, a mere 12% of Americans have high trust in the Supreme Court, only 14% in the presidency, and 4% in Congress. Only 10% have high trust in the criminal justice system, and only 10% have great trust in organized labor. Among adult Internet users in the United States, only 7% trust social media.

This lack of significant trust reflects a major shift in American views. For example, consider the following comparison of institutional trust in 2014 versus 1975 (Op Cit.):

INSTITUTION % OF AMERICANS WITH HIGH TRUST IN 1975 % OF AMERICANS WITH HIGH TRUST IN 2014
Public Schools 29 12
Congress 14 4
The Presidency 23 14
The Medical System 44 17
The Supreme Court 20 12
Church/Organized Religion 43 25

Looking at this from another angle, only 19% of Americans really trust the federal government and only 19% have high trust in their state government. In other words, we see our state governments in the same negative light as Washington. And only 25% of Americans have high trust in their local governments.

If modern Americans don’t feel that they can trust their local or state governments, schools, the media, banks, Wall Street, the justice system, the police, the courts, Congress, the White House, the Internet, doctors, or churches—who can they trust?

 The Status of an Era

As a 2015 TV Guide article put it: “A 2014 Harvard University poll revealed that only 11 percent of Millennials [those born between 1984 and 2001] trust the media to do the right thing most of the time.” And only 8% of Americans have high trust in the news they read on the Internet.

One area of more positive support: When asked to rate certain institutions as “positive” or “negative”, 95% of Americans ranked small business as positive and only 49% said big business was positive. The federal government was ranked positive by 46%, and “Entrepreneurs” by 84%.

In short, most people trust small businesses more than any other institution listed above, more than their local, state, or federal government or any branch of government, and more than the media, health care, public schools, banks, newspapers, the Internet, or churches.

What does this mean for our future? Can we solve our major national problems or overcome serious challenges without strong bonds of societal trust?

And, in fact, do such levels of distrust actually fuel additional problems? Is the mistrust itself a cause of deeper struggles? Meaning: will every difficulty quickly spin into crisis, simply because the level of suspicion and cynicism won’t allow us to come together and work toward constructive solutions? This isn’t just a Washington problem, it’s a true societal problem.

One thing is certain: the era of major trust in big institutions is clearly over.

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Category : Blog &Citizenship &Community &Culture &Current Events &Government &History &Leadership &Politics

3 Comments → “The Fall of Institutionalism by Oliver DeMille”


  1. Allen Levie

    2 years ago

    As you know, Nietzsche discusses social trust in a way by suggesting that the fabric is held together by a sort-of cultural entertainment. Our stories and group events tie us together build common language and the common language builds trust. Yet entertainment today is much less of a personally connected and experienced process than what Nietzsche was referencing. Liberty minded people may not or perhaps should not condone many of the messages in our common cultural entertainment and it is therefore not measuring up to what is needed in that way either.

    The form of reality TV and all other similar type media trends in media open a door of opportunity for us with regard to widely accepted trends in entertainment. We need a new experiential form for engaging at a local level while building distant trust through common language, the form itself and distribution patterns.

    As a side note; it looks like former First Lady Hillary Clinton (who to me represents institutionalist ideals) may be using holograms during this coming presidential campaign, which may provide a strange vulnerable continuity to the campaign. I think she is making a huge mistake if she really leans on this technology. Integrating role-playing into campaigns is not only a good shift in political campaign forms but would also likely be the best way to counter her mass media tactic. This could also build common language skills and trust that we are lacking.

    I believe the lack of trust in institutions can be a good thing in helping us regain that trust because I think it is a merited distrust. Reforming what institutions do and how they relate to communities can help institutions regain that trust. In order to do this we will likely cross some established institutional disciplinary boundaries and this will require the caliber of engagement that we witnessed in the founding generation of the USA and more. I recently read an economics article that parallels much of this discussion: http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2015/03/charlie-munger-academic-economics/. Munger talks about the weakness of our culture in not tapping the interdisciplinary gold nuggets in economics. Politics, business, education, religion, family, community and media seem to be falling into similar traps.


  2. Ryan Reilley

    2 years ago

    Oliver thank you for that summary!!

    The Data of trust to me reflects a couple things;

    1. That “right” vs “wrong” being an only biggeted approach and or moral relevatisms gained ground since the 70’s social movement and core education since 1960’s isn’t resonating with the hearts and minds of Americans! People who are not beyond felling have a sense of knowing the difference between light and dark or wrong and right. Not in the ego sense but an actual inner light that mankind must follow in order to live in alignment. Therefore this “Latin”, “objective”, “what works” society breeds distrust.

    2. As Oscar Ameringer reported in Overproduction and Underconsumption (see Annals or America volume 15, p129) who had a 20,000 ft view from his tours of observations and being a political economy student.
    ” What we are confronted with is not a mere manic like those of 1873 and 1883 but a worldwide economic catastrophe that may spell the end of the capitalistic era — FOR THE CAUSE OF IT IS PRODUCTION FOR PROFIT INSTEAD OF PRODUCTION FOR COMSUMPTION.”

    Both of these reflect the ideology that money and its fruit are the assets– not people and families. This every gov, institution, power outside of family which focuses of profit and gain cannot be trusted against the gift of mankinds natural enmity towards wrong/evil/immoral etc.

    So we must again realize that “trust” begins with “One nation under God”, that’s mans rights are inalienable”, and that the founding principles which you outline in your latest book with the greatest clarity I have ever found must be read, infused and used.


  3. Allen Levie

    2 years ago

    Well said Ryan. We don’t often acknowledge that “enmity” or its capacity. How would you suggest that this take place, especially given our poor “reading” ability, “infusing” track record, and our institutional obstacles to “using” material of that caliber?
    Allen Levie´s last blog post ..What Do We Do About Government? What about the Schoolroom?


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