Oct 31, 2011

More on the link between religion and economics

This is from an article in The Economist: [very interesting!]

Peter Berger, an American sociologist, has found that Weber’s theories have a certain plausibility in Latin America, where a Protestant, and especially a Pentecostalist minority, outperforms the Catholic majority. Both there and in Africa an individualist Protestant “prosperity gospel” which links financial success with divine favour seems more popular with the upwardly mobile than the recent Catholic stress on “liberating” the poor as a class. South Koreans (both in their homeland and as migrants to America) often convert from Buddhism to Protestantism as they rise economically. All this may reflect the fact that some kinds of Protestantism (like many strains of Islam) sit easily with a disciplined, reflective way of life. It would be odd if that had no economic effects.
But many attempts to link doctrine and economics have run up against exceptions and better explanations. In the Ottoman empire (and in some post-Ottoman places), Christian and Jewish minorities flourished in business. Yet this did not imply stereotypical “fatalism” or “backwardness” among Muslims; the main point was that desirable posts in public or military service were closed to non-Muslims.
Similarly, contemplating Greece’s economic woes, it is easy to dream up some theory that connects Orthodox Christianity (and its comparatively charitable attitude to human weakness) with corruption or cronyism. Orthodoxy has a less pessimistic view of “original sin” than the Christian West—and its prayers for the dead emphasise “no man lives who does not sin”. Does that imply winking at misdeeds? Possibly—but then try explaining why Greek-Americans, who are at least as devout as their motherland kin, do so very well in business, education and public service. The plausible reason lies in America’s institutions which make it easier to prosper in an honest way. Keep reading . . . 
Thanks to Lucas Rentschler for the pointer. 

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