Arnold Kling

Phelps on Culture and Dynamism

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New Nobel Laureate Edmund Phelps writes,


The values that might impact dynamism are of special interest here. Relatively few in [France, Germany, and Italy] report that they want jobs offering opportunities for achievement (42% in France and 54% in Italy, versus an average of 73% in Canada and the U.S.); chances for initiative in the job (38% in France and 47% in Italy, as against an average of 53% in Canada and the U.S.), and even interesting work (59% in France and Italy, versus an average of 71.5% in Canada and the U.K). Relatively few are keen on taking responsibility, or freedom (57% in Germany and 58% in France as against 61% in the U.S. and 65% in Canada), and relatively few are happy about taking orders (Italy 1.03, of a possible 3.0, and Germany 1.13, as against 1.34 in Canada and 1.47 in the U.S.).

...The weakness of these values on the Continent is not the only impediment to a revival of dynamism there. There is the solidarist aim of protecting the "social partners"--communities and regions, business owners, organized labor and the professions--from disruptive market forces. There is also the consensualist aim of blocking business initiatives that lack the consent of the "stakeholders"--those, such as employees, customers and rival companies, thought to have a stake besides the owners. There is an intellectual current elevating community and society over individual engagement and personal growth, which springs from antimaterialist and egalitarian strains in Western culture. There is also the "scientism" that holds that state-directed research is the key to higher productivity. Equally, there is the tradition of hierarchical organization in Continental countries. Lastly, there a strain of anti-commercialism. "A German would rather say he had inherited his fortune than say he made it himself," the economist Hans-Werner Sinn once remarked to me.


Reading this, I am reminded that the members of our academic elite are envious of European values.


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Raul writes:

Can you elaborte? I don't understand your point.

Barbar writes:

Relatively few are keen on taking responsibility, or freedom (57% in Germany and 58% in France as against 61% in the U.S. and 65% in Canada)

This might be the most staggering statistic I have ever come across.

Not so fast writes:
Reading this, I am reminded that the members of our academic elite are envious of European values.

I suppose you think this is a devestating objection. But you need to check yo'self.

There are a number of problems. First of all, I think you should admit that the egalitarians and social democrats typically take Scandinavia, not Continental Europe, as their role model.

I'd also refer you to the work of Scruggs and Allen demonstrating the inverse relationship between welfare state generosity and absolute poverty.

Furthermore, you should note that by many indicators, European economies are doing roughly as well as ours. See Jeffrey Sachs and Peter Lindert. Dani Rodrick notes that in certain ways--such as free trade--their economies are more liberal.

As to European values: What are their homicide rates? What are their incarceration rates? How many of them are willing to believe that the Earth was created in seven days or that our spirits are guarded by angels?What are their divorce rates?

Not so fast writes:

To Kling and Caplan:

In general I like your comments box but it has one major problem: the links do not are not graphically different from the other text.

My post above has many links embedded in it.

[Not so fast: Unvisited links show up bright blue; visited links are grayer. Your links look similar to the text to you because you've visited them recently yourself. Another reason may be your computer monitor or even whether you are using Firefox or IE. Some combinations show more color contrast in the gray-black range than others. We apologize for the confusion, though. A third reason might be that your links look like text because they are so long, so they have no text background against which to stand out! You might try keeping your links to a few words within the text. Make a list if you have several links in a row.--Econlib Ed.]

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