Sunday 9 January 2011

What are we afraid of?

David Landes is a great economic historian and his The Wealth and Poverty of Nations provides a very interesting reading. Yet he does not have a theory for why Europe's periphery did not catch up to the forerunners, during the nineteenth or the twentieth centuries. He simply says that people there are different and behave differently: the North had great men that took the right decisions, either in governments or in business, whereas the South had lousy politicians and lousy entrepreneurs. This is clearly too simplistic. Isn't it? I tend to think so, and here are some reasons why - reasons that can certainly be extrapolated forwards.


  1. I also suspect that dominant religion contributed significantly. The Calvinistic influence in the north valued work, merit and responsibility, while Catholicism in the south always provided for a convenient escape route (the confession) for acts of irresponsibility. In other words, dominant religion supported increased responsibility in the north, while the opposite happened in the south.

  2. Angus Maddison, who died last year, weaves some comments regarding our cultural background as one of the reasons, naming religion among them.

    Continuing jsalcedo's message, Webber noted that in Calvinism, for salvation to be more assured, people need to accumulate greater wealth, to show they are in favour with God. This contrasts with the «irresponsible domestic fiscal policy, [that] sapped the vigour of the forces for growth.» (Angus)

  3. Interesting, JR, I was not aware of Angus´remarks and will study them. Thank you.