The Jekyll and Hyde Nature of Individualism and What it Means for China

By Roger McKinney

Chinese soldier on Tiananmen Square.

Nobel-prize winning economist Edmund Phelps ties economic growth to the spread of individualism in his forthcoming book. A November 3 Streetwise column by James Mackintosh, “What Martin Luther Says About Capitalism,” summarizes Phelps’ book:

“The more individualistic a country is, the better it has used its labor and capital. …even in recent years, countries with more individualistic cultures have more innovative economies. They demonstrate a link between countries that surveys show are more individualist and total factor productivity, a proxy for innovation measuring growth due to more-efficient use of labor and capital. Less-individualistic cultures, such as France, Spain and Japan, showed less innovation than the individualistic U.S.”

In God is a Capitalist I summarize the work of Geert Hofstede who trail blazed research on the connection between individualism and economic growth in the 1970s, Shalom Schwartz in the 1990s, and William Easterly in 2011. All found very strong correlations between individualism and economic growth.

Helmut Schoeck demonstrated that innovation is the opposite of envy in his great book, Envy: A Theory of Social Behavior. In other words, innovation cannot happen unless society restrains envy enough to allow innovation to flourish. Schoeck argued that only Christianity had succeeded in …read more

Source:: Affluent