Feature

How culture feeds into the poverty trap

Why are some countries wealthy while others seem doomed to eternal poverty?

How culture feeds into the poverty trap

Robert SamuelsonThe Washington Post

Why are some countries wealthy while others seem doomed to eternal poverty? asked Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post. For a long time, most economists argued that any society could “nurture economic growth by adopting sound policies.” But now economist Gregory Clark has mounted a strong argument that culture is the determining factor. In his new book, A Farewell to Alms, “Clark suggests that much of the world’s remaining poverty is semi-permanent.” Some societies, he says, simply lack the “bedrock values” that lead to growth and rising living standards. He notes that in the early 1800s, China, Japan, and England all enjoyed political stability, low taxes, and open markets. Yet England—not China or Japan—was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. What made England different? Clark says it was that country’s “middle-class values of patience, hard work, ingenuity, innovativeness, and education.” Other societies, he says, are “dominated by tribal, religious, ideological, or political values” that can impede economic development. Historians might take issue with some of Clark’s assertions, but there’s no disputing his broader point: “Culture counts.”

Recommended

Germany imposes new restrictions on unvaccinated
Angela Merkel.
'a very, very difficult situation'

Germany imposes new restrictions on unvaccinated

Olympic committee: 2nd call with Peng Shuai 'reconfirmed' she 'appeared to be safe'
Shuai Peng
'difficult situation'

Olympic committee: 2nd call with Peng Shuai 'reconfirmed' she 'appeared to be safe'

10 things you need to know today: December 1, 2021
A vigil for Oxford High School shooting victims
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 1, 2021

Honduras ruling party concedes to leftist Xiomara Castro in presidential election
Xiomara Castro
Señora Presidente

Honduras ruling party concedes to leftist Xiomara Castro in presidential election

Most Popular

Police reportedly seize hard drives from Marilyn Manson's home
Marilyn Manson
raid

Police reportedly seize hard drives from Marilyn Manson's home

Tiger Woods opens up about 'tough' recovery after car accident
Tiger Woods
'long way to go'

Tiger Woods opens up about 'tough' recovery after car accident

7 cartoons about Thanksgiving inflation
Political Cartoon.
Feature

7 cartoons about Thanksgiving inflation