So it is a matter of concern that trust has become an increasingly rare commodity. In the US, there has been a precipitous drop in faith in the government. Almost four out of five Americans trusted Washington to do the right thing when Eisenhower and John F Kennedy were in the White House. Under Donald Trump, that has fallen to one in five. In Britain, Theresa May is trying to finesse a Brexit deal at a time when parliament is even less trusted than the banks. By a distance, the most trusted institution in the UK is the military. We don’t trust big business, we don’t trust the City, because we don’t trust the newspapers – and we certainly don’t trust politicians.
Nor is this simply a reaction to the financial crisis of a decade ago, although it certainly has not helped that the supposedly perfect model of free-market capitalism constructed before the crash was based on erroneous assumptions and capital was operated – in many cases – by self-seeking crooks.
When Milton Friedman famously said it was the duty of corporate executives to make as much money as possible, he was careful to add the rider that they still had to play by the rules and abide by ethical customs. This was certainly not the case in Wall Street and the City of London in the early and mid-2000s – and the general public woke up to that fact.