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The American Institutions We Love




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Amy Katz/Zuma Press

Maybe businesses should just focus on profitably serving their customers. We live in an age when large corporations spend enormous amounts of time and resources acting on the advice of non-shareholding “stakeholders” and telling us how virtuous they are in following the latest political fads. They also ask Americans to believe that it’s right and just to focus intensely on racial differences among employees and prospective employees. And yet somehow the public doesn’t think large corporations are virtuous. But it isn’t because Americans don’t like business. The latest Gallup survey finds a notable exception to a general lack of faith in American institutions.

Jeffrey Jones of Gallup reports on the polling firm’s latest findings:

Americans are less confident in major U.S. institutions than they were a year ago, with significant declines for 11 of the 16 institutions tested and no improvements for any…

Gallup first measured confidence in institutions in 1973 and has done so annually since 1993. This year’s survey was conducted June 1-20.

Confidence currently ranges from a high of 68% for small business to a low of 7% for Congress.

It appears that small business is the institution Americans trust the most. But how can this be, since many small firms don’t have environmental, social and governance experts on staff and some don’t even have committees dedicated to examining and altering the demographic characteristics of their workforces? Also, a number of U.S. small businesses choose not to weigh in on contentious political and social debates. This might have something to do with the trust they inspire. Gallup also finds that institutions specifically tasked with resolving political questions aren’t exactly our favorites. Mr. Jones notes:

This year’s poll marks new lows in confidence for all three branches of the federal government — the Supreme Court (25%), the presidency (23%) and Congress. Five other institutions are at their lowest points in at least three decades of measurement, including the church or organized religion (31%), newspapers (16%), the criminal justice system (14%), big business (14%) and the police.

At 45% the police remain wildly popular compared with big business, which has never spent so much time telling Americans how sensitive and caring it is. Yet Americans overwhelmingly distrust large corporations. In contrast, people do trust the little meritocracies on the corner that tend to think sponsoring little league teams is a better corporate social mission than demanding progressive sexual education.

Readers can probably guess the one governmental institution that is also highly respected. Gallup’s Mr. Jones reports:

The military is the only institution besides small business for which a majority of Americans express confidence (64%).

What’s also notable about these findings is that they show up across the partisan divide. According to the Gallup report:

All partisan groups are generally less confident in the 16 U.S. institutions than they were a year ago, with average declines of four points among Republicans, five points among Democrats and six points among independents.

All three party groups are much less confident in the presidency than they were a year ago, showing declines of at least 10 points…

Small business and the military are the two institutions rated most positively by each of the three party groups, while Congress is essentially tied for the lowest among all three.

“Notably, confidence in the major institutions of the federal government is at a low point,” adds Mr. Jones.

Perhaps a reasonable conclusion for corporate CEOs is that they should encourage their teams to operate more like small businesses and less like government agencies.

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In Other News

Inflation Is the Mother of Invention?
Casey Smith reports for the Associated Press from Indianapolis:

When drastic increases in food costs spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic left Andrew Caplinger struggling to find fresh catfish for his restaurants, he decided to try “an experimental” solution — growing his own.

In the coming months, the Indianapolis restaurant chain Caplinger’s Fresh Catch Seafood will begin sourcing its second most popular menu item from fish ponds at his 28-acre farm in southern Indiana. The goal is to produce up to half of the 800 to 1,000 pounds of catfish fillets served at the restaurants each week.

“I’ve never done anything like this — I’ve sold dead fish my whole entire life,” he said. “It’s tough, and it might be risky. But assuming things go well and these fish grow like they should, we won’t have to look at raising our store prices again for some time.”

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Education Reform
“Antisemitism largely eliminated from textbooks in Saudi Arabia – report,” Jerusalem Post, June 29

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Answers to Questions Nobody Is Asking
“Liz Cheney: ‘I haven’t made a decision’ about 2024 presidential run,” Axios, July 3.

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James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”

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Follow James Freeman on Twitter.

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(Lisa Rossi helps compile Best of the Web. Thanks to Richard Belzer, Tony Lima and Monty Krieger.)

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