There are inexhaustible factors that determine how prosperous individuals and nations become. They range from policy, resource endowment, and political stability. However, one of the most underrated factors in economic development is culture.
In his book Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, Samuel Huntington explains how in the 1960s, Ghana and South Korea were comparable in regards to income per capita, the structure of production, and foreign aid. 50 years later, the gap is incomparable and according to him, culture had a major role in explaining it. He explains that the South Koreans value thrift, investment, hard work, education, organization and
discipline. Ghanaians, on the other hand, were inclined to the socio-political aspects of their society.
Amy Chua, a Harvard Law School graduate, Writer and Academic, corroborates the impact of culture on economic development in her book, World on Fire. She mentions that the Chinese, who comprise 2% of the Philippines’ population, account for 60 % of private businesses. Similarly, she adds that the Lebanese in Sierra Leone and Indians in East Africa
are picture perfect examples of nationalities known for their business acumen and are dominating in foreign economies as compared to the natives. In South America, she points out that those of European descent have long held economic power over the native South
Gregory Clarke, Professor of Economics at the University of California states in his publication Farewell to Alms: A brief history of the world, that it was not by accident
that the Industrial Revolution commenced in the West. During this period, some nations experienced immense wealth while others sank deeper into poverty.
In the West, he says, it has been a gradual process that has inspired a set of deep cultural changes that are characterized by a heightened sense of competitiveness and strong work ethic; traits that were required in order to successfully take advantage of emerging technological breakthroughs. He adds that the 19th century was characterized by a burgeoning of the middle-class population that believed in hard work, less violence, competitiveness, and increasing literacy. Since these values and traits worked well for
the population, he states that they could have been passed down the current generations through Social Darwinism.
Religion is among the instruments that act as a medium for culture transmission and over the centuries. Statistics show that affiliation to certain religious doctrines has stifled economic development in the respective regions.
Lawrence E. Harrison, Former USAID Director, Latin America and author of; Underdevelopment is a State of Mind grouped 117 countries by their predominant
religion. He then recorded their performance on ten indices among them GDP per capita, trust, corruption, income distribution, and World Bank per capita GDP which is calculated on the basis of purchasing power parity.
The findings revealed that…
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