When Governments Lose Trust — The Bucket Climb

Trust in government means that we all feel that we have a fair shake.  That is, everyone lives by the rules. Some contractors are not exempt from permits, inspections, and fees while others slide through without that extra cost and the burdens of, oh, safety.  Likewise, getting a license, corporate status, or tax approval is the same process for everyone.  Some are not permitted to ease right through while others are subjected to rigorous and delaying reviews.  Equal application of government processes, procedures, and regulations is what distinguishes countries with economic development from  those that never seem to get the wheels turning.

The Barometer has heard this equality of application described as the bucket phenomenon in other countries.  We are all together in the bottom of the bucket trying to rise to the top.  The climb is difficult, but we all make it out the same way — through hard work and determination.  However, in some countries, there who are those at the top of the bucket and those climbing ahead of us use those at the top to their advantage.  They use sticks to push us back, or grease the skids so that some continue to climb as others slip to the bottom again.  Because of what those who supervise the climb are doing at the top of the bucket, many of us can never get to the top because those with power above us push us back down again and again through inequitable application of rules, processes, and permit standards. Regardless of how hard we try, no matter our level of determination — we cannot finish the climb because those in control keep us down in the bucket, ever struggling.  Eventually, even the best give up and their ideas, voices, and perspectives are lost.

What we have witnessed as the IRS and other scandals unfold is the not-so-subtle beginning of the bucket phenomenon, something generally limited to third-world countries and episodes of “The Big Valley.” Those in power use the tools, processes, fees, and power of government to keep those who have ideas and are working hard to implement them at the bottom of the bucket.  You cannot accomplish what you have set out to do because the government stops you.  And the government is selective in choosing those who will make the climb.  Those who support the powers-that-be, those who donate to the powers-that-be, and even those who lend vacation homes to the powers-that-be will climb the bucket easily.  Those who oppose the powers-that-be, those who question the powers-that-be, and those with ideas that might topple the powers-that-be will find obstacles, delays, and mocking in their climbs to the bucket rim.

Regardless of where one stands politically, the bucket climb has to be clean.  Whether by order or bureaucratic tendency, inequitable application of the rules for the climb destines the country to banana republic economic status because the perception of “I can’t get a fair shake” is a deterrent to economic development and, eventually, freedom.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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