Who Prospers? How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success

Who Prospers? How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success

Who Prospers? How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success

Who Prospers? How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success

Synopsis

What lies behind America's economic and social decline? Can racism explain the ghetto tragedy if two-thirds of America's blacks have made it into the middle class? Why have Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrants done so much better than Mexicans? According to Lawrence E. Harrison, the key to answering these and other questions is culture- the values of a people with respect to work, education, frugality, community, fair play, and progress.

Excerpt

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.

--Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The New Republic (7 July 1986)

Why do some nations and ethnic groups do better than others? Climate, resource endowment, geographic location and size, policy choices, and sheer luck are among the relevant factors. But it is values and attitudes--culture--that differentiate ethnic groups and are mainly responsible for such phenomena as Latin America's persistent instability and inequity, Taiwan's and Korea's economic "miracles," and the achievements of the Japanese--in Japan, in Brazil, and in America.

Culture changes, for good and for bad. In the span of three decades, Spain has turned away from its traditional, authoritarian, hierarchical value system, which was at the root of both Spain's and Hispanic America's backwardness, and has immersed itself in the progressive Western European mainstream. During the same period, a racial revolution has occurred in America that has brought two- thirds of America's blacks into the mainstream--and the middle class. Yet, in the same three decades, the United States as a nation has experienced economic and political decline, principally, I believe, because of the erosion of the traditional American values--work, frugality, education, excellence, community--that had contributed so much to our earlier success.

The overriding significance of culture is the paramount lesson I have learned in my thirty years of work on political, economic, and social development. I lived for thirteen of those years in Latin Amer ica . . .

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