Social capital is one of Utah’s most undervalued characteristics
Utah receives new accolades daily. From being the best state for business to having a low unemployment rate, the recognition of our success and quality of life are numerous. Yet, one of our most defining characteristics is often overlooked: our social capital. This represents what is commonly referred to as our “associational life,” meaning the social networks—our friends, families, and workplaces—in which we pursue common interests.
According to the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee, Utah ranks number one for social capital, while national trends show a decline. Researchers believe many of the institutions central to the makeup of American society, such as families, schools, and workplaces, have been eroding or losing cultural momentum in our communities.
For our community to prosper, we must recommit to the bedrock principles of strengthening families, building neighborhoods, and teaching service as part of civic engagement. In short, we must support our social capital. To accomplish this, one additional prerequisite is needed: freedom—of thought, speech, and association.
Freedom allows you to become whatever you want to be, pursue your passion, or work for a cause you care about. We sometimes take this simple notion for granted, but the reality is that access to careers or paths to success has never been more readily available. This places significant responsibility on the shoulders of business and community leaders.
Why is this? The average person spends more time at work with coworkers than anywhere else outside the home. Therefore, the culture and values in the workplace are vitally important to supporting individuals’ well-being and community success. Despite the recent uptick in remote work, most of us still want to interact with colleagues on a regular, face-to-face basis, which is critical to developing sound social capital within a workplace.
As preserving freedom becomes more important, it is also becoming more difficult. However, freedom is imperative for social capital to flourish and for prosperity to continue.
Our individual freedoms are foundational to free enterprise and free markets. This country’s founding documents presupposed a limited government because it was to govern a free and virtuous society. Freedom as a foundation provides for association and can lead to the growth of wealth and social capital. Our nation may not be perfect, but it has the necessary tools to form a more perfect union. My hope is our business community will recognize its role and responsibility to reinforce the naturally occurring social capital within their organizations.