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March 21, 2013 10:00 AM Age: 7 yrs

Our Institutions Need to be Reformed

Category: Larry Checco
Source:  Larry Checco, featured commentator

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Question: What’s the core problem with these United States of America?

Answer:  Our institutions are failing us—miserably!  And the problem is systemic.

  • Our government can’t or won’t govern, and many of its agencies—that as citizens we depend on to be conscientious, competent overseers of our best interests—are anemic, ineffective or too self-interested.  Think of the Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), U.S. Treasury, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their inability to foresee or forestall the housing bubble, soften the impact of the Great Recession -- or give us any confidence that such an event won’t happen again.
  • Our financial institutions, especially those too big to fail, are no longer aggregators of wealth investing for the long-term in our economy, but rather gambling casinos seeking quick profits for themselves by playing with their clients’ money.
  • Our corporations, which are sitting on a couple of trillion dollars in cash, are more interested in larding the bank accounts of their CEOs and shareholders than they are in bringing into balance the wages and benefits of their stakeholders, namely their employees, who comprise our nation’s declining middle class.
  • Our nonprofits can’t always be trusted to employ our donations wisely.
  • Our health care system is broken, rife with fraud and abuse.  If you haven’t already, read Steven Brill’s cover story in the March 4, 2013, issue of Time magazine, entitled “Bitter Pill.  Why Medical Bills are Killing Us.”  It will make you sick.
  • Our public educational system cannot be counted on to provide our kids with an education that will enable them to compete in the 21st century work world.
  • Our judicial system has declared corporations equal to citizens, and appears more willing to jail a kid for trying to hold up a corner convenience store than it is to bring to justice white collar criminals responsible for bringing our economy to its knees. 
  • As for many of our religious institutions, they’re enough to make the most profane sinners among us blush.

The sad fact is how these institutions function define us as a culture and a society—morally, ethically, legally and spiritually—and many of us are more than disappointed with their performance.

In fact, we feel downright betrayed.

It’s a Matter of Trust

Part of what we’re experiencing as Americans is that shame, trust and sense of community are slowly but surely being leached from our collective conscience.  

  • Deeds for which we once would have been pilloried in the town square are now paths to fame and fortune on a grand scale.
  • “Who Do You Trust” was the name of a 1950s game show; now it’s a question we must constantly ask ourselves, regardless with whom we are dealing, sinners and saints, alike. 
  • As for that sense of community?  It’s impossible to achieve if shame and trust have been successfully filtered out of the equation.

As the world attests to everyday, weak institutions lead to weak nations.

In 2005, we were all so enamored and hopeful when Iraqis went to the polls and voted to choose their nation's first full-term parliament since Saddam Hussein's ouster.  But their purple ink-stained fingers—proof that they had voted—didn’t really amount to much in a country with little in the way of institutional infrastructure.

And this is the case, in lesser and larger degrees, in all nations where institutions have failed or for all intents and purposes are nonexistent.

American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley once said that “institutions—government, churches, industries, and the like—have properly no other function than to contribute to human freedom; and in so far as they fail, on the whole, to perform this function, they are wrong and need reconstruction.”

Something, as American citizens, we should take seriously.

Contents (c) 2013 by Larry Checco - All Rights Reserved

Larry Checco is president of Checco Communications. His latest book is entitled Aha! Moments in Brand Management: Commonsense Insights to a Stronger, Healthier Brand. Checco Communications is a consulting firm that specializes in branding.

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