Friday, September 5, 2014

A Culture That Won’t Deliver Growth

A problem of how macroeconomics has developed over the last 30 years is that while most fields are pushing a non-judgmental view of cultures, macro has started from scratch to pile up a bunch of support for the idea that they make a lot of difference in one area: economic growth.

As an example of a culture that is not growth oriented, take this quote:

Then there are those cultural attributes that it is considered impolite to raise. "Somali men are not lazy," protests Mr. Mohamed's No. 2. "We are descendants of Abraham, and if you descend from Abraham you don't do manual labor." When the men are caught loafing, they say they are "planning" …

This quote is from a Somali, living in Kenya, who’s employed locally in the economic development bureaucracy.

Somalis are, of course, one of the poorest ethnic groups in the world.

And … lots of people claim descent from Abraham. It’s just that most of them don’t use that to justify not being productive.

This is from “Book Review: ‘The Idealist’ by Nina Monk” in the September 6, 2013 issue of The Wall Street Journal. Her book is about Jeffrey Sachs, a famous macroeconomist who turned development maven about 15 years ago — and who appears to have evolved towards the view that lack of development is caused by the stinginess of developed countries.

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