Friday, March 06, 2009

Does Respecting the Individual Promote Prosperity?

William Easterly:

To drastically oversimplify, values across different cultures lie along a spectrum between two separate poles: (1) valuing individual autonomy, believing in equal treatment of individuals, reliance on formal law, the same moral standards apply to all, enforcement of morality is between individuals vs. (2) seeing the individual mainly or only as part of the group, different standards of treatment for group insiders and outsiders, morality only applies to interactions within the group, group enforcement of moral standards, reliance on informal rather than formal institutions.

To continue the drastic oversimplification, the values closer to the first pole are more consistent with the kind of good government associated with democratic capitalism, while values closer to the second pole are more associated with authoritarian and collectivist politics and economics. Measurement of all this stuff is a tricky issue, but here are two illustrative associations:

Then it also turns out this same measure can predict which countries are richer or poorer:

Read the whole thing.

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