Ideology Matters

William Easterly writes:

To drastically oversimplify, values across different cultures lie along a spectrum between two separate poles: (1) valuing individual autonomy, believing in equal treatment of individuals, reliance on formal law, the same moral standards apply to all, enforcement of morality is between individuals vs. (2) seeing the individual mainly or only as part of the group, different standards of treatment for group insiders and outsiders, morality only applies to interactions within the group, group enforcement of moral standards, reliance on informal rather than formal institutions.

To continue the drastic oversimplification, the values closer to the first pole are more consistent with the kind of good government associated with democratic capitalism, while values closer to the second pole are more associated with authoritarian and collectivist politics and economics. … Then it also turns out this same measure can predict which countries are richer or poorer.  

Read the whole thing.

My model of society is that long-run changes in political institutions and economic performance depend most strongly on ideology, broadly conceived as the mental models we use to understand the world combined with the values we hold. Douglass North has influenced me most strongly in this respect, especially in this book, more concisely in this paper.

One Response

  1. See also Caplan’s idea trap paper if you haven’t already….

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