Phelps on Culture and Dynamism
By Arnold Kling
New Nobel Laureate Edmund Phelps writes,
The values that might impact dynamism are of special interest here. Relatively few in [France, Germany, and Italy] report that they want jobs offering opportunities for achievement (42% in France and 54% in Italy, versus an average of 73% in Canada and the U.S.); chances for initiative in the job (38% in France and 47% in Italy, as against an average of 53% in Canada and the U.S.), and even interesting work (59% in France and Italy, versus an average of 71.5% in Canada and the U.K). Relatively few are keen on taking responsibility, or freedom (57% in Germany and 58% in France as against 61% in the U.S. and 65% in Canada), and relatively few are happy about taking orders (Italy 1.03, of a possible 3.0, and Germany 1.13, as against 1.34 in Canada and 1.47 in the U.S.).
…The weakness of these values on the Continent is not the only impediment to a revival of dynamism there. There is the solidarist aim of protecting the “social partners”–communities and regions, business owners, organized labor and the professions–from disruptive market forces. There is also the consensualist aim of blocking business initiatives that lack the consent of the “stakeholders”–those, such as employees, customers and rival companies, thought to have a stake besides the owners. There is an intellectual current elevating community and society over individual engagement and personal growth, which springs from antimaterialist and egalitarian strains in Western culture. There is also the “scientism” that holds that state-directed research is the key to higher productivity. Equally, there is the tradition of hierarchical organization in Continental countries. Lastly, there a strain of anti-commercialism. “A German would rather say he had inherited his fortune than say he made it himself,” the economist Hans-Werner Sinn once remarked to me.
Reading this, I am reminded that the members of our academic elite are envious of European values.