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 Samuelson
The 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

U.K. Supreme Court: People living in glass apartments have privacy rights
Neo Bankside apartments from Tate Modern
People who live in glass houses...

U.K. Supreme Court: People living in glass apartments have privacy rights

Russian troops are joining Wagner mercenaries in grinding push for Bakhmut
Bakhmut, Ukraine
Attrition

Russian troops are joining Wagner mercenaries in grinding push for Bakhmut

U.S. firm offers Ukraine 2 Reaper drones for $1, plus $10 million in shipping
MQ-9 Reaper drone
Fine Print

U.S. firm offers Ukraine 2 Reaper drones for $1, plus $10 million in shipping

German police say suspect killed lookalike so she could fake her own death
German police.
doppelgangers

German police say suspect killed lookalike so she could fake her own death

Most Popular

The Hogwarts Legacy boycott controversy, explained
Hogwarts Legacy logo photo
Briefing

The Hogwarts Legacy boycott controversy, explained

The Adani Group scandal, explained
Gautam Adani.
Briefing

The Adani Group scandal, explained

Linda Ronstadt is the Kate Bush of 2023 thanks to The Last of Us
Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett in The Last of Us
running up that hill

Linda Ronstadt is the Kate Bush of 2023 thanks to The Last of Us