The underlying difference between Catholics and Protestants is economic…

Given nothing much is happening up at Stormont, its hard to define real political difference between the DUP and Sinn Fein… But here, the European Central Bank (PDF here) can fill in the void with a reading from two Swiss Cantons, Vaud a French speaking Protestant state in the east and Freibourg, the French speaking Catholic enclave next door…

A new study by the European Central Bank has also found that Catholics are more likely to favour sharing wealth and to support government intervention in the economy than are Protestants.

Based on data from Swiss cantons of Fribourg (Catholic) and Vaud (Protestant), the study found support for early 20th century German sociologist Max Weber’s theories about the Protestant work ethic.

Although, after a cursory look both Cantons seem to vote centre right in the main… Perhaps there’s not such a difference politically, so much as a predilection for certain policy choices?

In Northern Ireland, where Northern and Southern Europe religious (or if you prefer, post religous) cultures collide, is it any wonder we cannot agree on a coherent, fair and high achieving education system? At least there’s a border between Fribourg and Vaud…

  • Mack

    I don’t think those findings can be generalised.

    E.g. If they had compared Ireland (Republic) with Sweden, wouldn’t they have found the opposite?

  • IJP

    Scandinavia is, of course, overwhelmingly Lutheran – Protestantism is highly divergent and thus so are the socio-political views of is adherents.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yep Calvin rule in French speaking Switzerland,and may have had a tad of influence in Northern Ireland. Fair point though that Weber doesn’t cover the Scandinavian communitarianism, but I suspect that’s as much a cultural interdependence borne of tough environments as anything sourced in religious belief.

  • Wait for it, i can see an ill informed thought bubble appearing on the horizon, should be here any time soon.

    Oh yes why are protestant countries baling out catholic countries?

  • galloglaigh

    This is a short essay I wrote some time ago, examining Max Weber’s theory and its relationship to religion and partition on the island of Ireland. It deals with the issue of work ethic, but was before the economic downturn, which was created by governments, bankers and developers. The ordinary people who got sucked in, can’t be blamed for the disaster caused by the few:

    Max Weber famously connected “the Protestant ethic and the spirit of Capitalism”. Given the strong social and political role of religion in both parts of Ireland, to what extent can social teachings of Protestantism and Catholicism, respectively, explain differences in economic development?

    Religion on the island of Ireland has a knock-on effect on political and social influence. This is unique to the island. Religion and its influence has declined almost elsewhere in western society. Is there a correlation between religion and work ethic on the island of Ireland? A brief look at Max Weber’s theory and his publication The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism may give us the answer. Michael Haralambos and Martin Holborn have given an analysis of this theory, and at the same time, they have given some brief criticisms of it from other sociological perspectives. A brief economic analysis of Ireland from the famine to partition, written by John Bradley will be explored. This will give the reader a background into economic difficulties which Ireland experienced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Was the partition of Ireland an economic and political disaster? Religious stereotypes are put out by both sides of the political and religious divide in Ireland. Two European Values Studies will be examined, to expose the true work ethic that exists on the island of Ireland. Is there really such a phenomenon as the Protestant ethic and has it contributed to the spirit of capitalism in Ireland?

    Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was translated by Talcott Parsons (Weber, M., 1974, p.p. ix-xi) and first published in English in 1930 (Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M., 2000, p.p. 447). Weber’s theory was in contrast to both functionalist and Marxist writings on social change. Both functionalist and Marxist writings gave an emphasis on religion being a factor in social integration and a barrier to social change. Weber argued that a shared religious belief might integrate a social group; those religious beliefs might have an effect in the long term, thus producing changes in society. Weber did not agree with Marxist views that religion was shaped by economic factors. Weber believed that in certain circumstances, religious beliefs could be a factor on economic behaviour (Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M., 2000, p.p. 447-448).

    Weber discusses the rise of ascetic Calvinist Protestantism and the development of industrial capitalism within Western society. Weber argued that capitalism developed in areas where Calvinism was prominent, and that this form of religion occurred before capitalism. To give his argument substance, Weber argued that China and India had the technology and the labour; they had individuals who were making money; what these countries did not have, was a religion that facilitated and encouraged the development of capitalism. Weber claimed he had found a correlation between Calvinism and capitalism (Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M., 2000, p.p 448).

    Werner Sombart (1907) criticised Weber’s theory, claiming that Calvinism disagreed with the pursuit of money for the sake of it. Weber responded by pointing out that predestination was not a rational pursuit of profit, yet it was an unintended consequence. He gave the way in which Protestants behaved as evidence (Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M., 2000, p.p 451).

    Karl Katusky, a Marxist critic of Weber’s theory, argued that capitalism preceded Calvinism, and that capitalism itself and was a determining factor for Protestantism. Katusky argued that Protestant ideology was used by capitalists to legitimise their position. According to Michael Haralambos and Martin Holborn, it is a chicken and egg situation: Which came first, capitalism or Calvinism (Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M., 2000, p.p 451)?

    The Great Famine of the 1840s in Ireland shattered the social and economic fabric of the country, and highlighted the economic weakness of the western regions of the island. A market for local industry was prevented from emerging, due to the devastating effects of death and emigration in this period. An irregularity of form occurred in the evolution of the Irish people; in the southern and western regions of the island, a tradition of emigration was emerging. This caused an uneven spread in terms of benefit from the second industrial revolution. This revolution occurred in Ireland in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the area of the island that would become the Republic of Ireland, the population had declined by almost fifty five percent between 1841 and 1951.

    This is in contrast to the area of the island which would become Northern Ireland, which seen a population decline of only seventeen percent. The population of Belfast grew in the decades after the famine. By 1911, the population of Belfast (386,947) was greater than the population of Dublin (304,802) (Bradley, J., 1999, p.p. 43). At the height of success for the economy of the north-east, Ireland was transforming. Political elements in Belfast were pushing for partition, as elements in Dublin were seeking total separation from the United Kingdom. It is ironic that the successful linen and engineering industries, concentrated mainly in the north-east, were to suffer serious decline in the years after partition. This was mirrored by an overall decline in these industries throughout the newly constituted United Kingdom during this period. It has often been stated that the partitioning of Ireland was an economic and political disaster (Bradley, J., 1999, p.p. 38-43).

    “North of the border are the best Protestants in the world. South of the border there are the best Catholics in the world. There are very few Christians in the whole lot of them” (cited in Greeley, A., 1999, p.p. 141).

    The influence of religion and religious organisations may once have had an effect on society. This influence in general has declined in western society. Given the cultural pressure that religion still has on the island of Ireland, a question may be asked: Are the vestiges of religious influence still present in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland? Is there a possibility that within the island of Ireland, there is a belief that these influences are present? Does this belief feed the stereotype that cultural differences exist within Northern Ireland, and between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (Fahey, T., Hayes, B. & Sinnott, R., 2005, p.p. 162)?

    In regards to these stereotypes, it has been said that Northern Protestants regard themselves as “an honest, hard-working, straight-talking and law-abiding people” (cited in Fahey, T., Hayes, B. & Sinnott, R., 2005, p.p. 162), while at the same time they see Catholics as “devious, untrustworthy, lazy, slovenly, happier to “diddle” the state and whinge, than turn an honest penny” (cited in Fahey, T., Hayes, B. & Sinnott, R., 2005, p.p. 162). Should this be seen as propaganda? Irish history often highlights this notion; a Protestant ethic of hard-working thriftiness, something which was said to be lacking in the Catholic population. The recent Celtic Tiger, and the boom economy in the Republic of Ireland puts this propaganda to bed. As the boom was evident throughout the entire state; economic backwardness and the Catholic population can no longer have the association of going hand in hand (Fahey, T., Hayes, B. & Sinnott, R., 2005, p.p. 162).

    A positive work ethic was found to be widespread in the Republic of Ireland, according to the European Values Study in 1981. Some commentators at the time of the survey were not convinced. People in the Republic of Ireland were found to be more committed to and satisfied with work than the German people. These findings have been given a degree of credibility, with the attractiveness of the Irish workforce to multinational corporations in the decades following the survey (Fahey, T., Hayes, B. & Sinnott, R., 2005, p.p. 163).

    A further survey of European values in 1999/2000, shows that a pro-work attitude between Northern Protestants and Catholics is similar. It also shows a difference between the pro-work attitudes in the combined religious denominations North and South. The survey suggests that there is a higher pro-work sentiment in the Republic of Ireland, compared to Northern Ireland. The survey would therefore suggest, that Protestants in Ireland, North or South, do not have a distinctive Protestant work ethic. The survey does indicate that there is a link between the role of religious commitment and a culture of work ethic: People from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds who have a strong religious attachment, have a higher commitment level to work, than those who are less committed to religious practice. According to the survey, secularisation is a determining factor in the culture of life in both jurisdictions in Ireland. It has more importance in influencing how people view what is happening in the world as a whole (Fahey, T., Hayes, B. & Sinnott, R., 2005, p.p. 166-167).

    The period between the famine in the nineteenth century, and the partition of Ireland in the early twentieth century, saw the economic fortunes of the island being steered towards one corner: the north-east. A culture of emigration elsewhere prevented the economy of the entire island seeing benefit from the second wave of industrial revolution. This occurred during the second half of the nineteenth century. The partition of the island led to an alienation of both jurisdictions, in turn leading to suspicion and stereotype. By analysing the European Values Studies, the Protestant work ethic in Ireland is not evident. The stereotypes of hard working Protestants and lazy Catholics do not stand up to test. The Celtic Tiger era shows that predominantly Catholic areas of the island can also have economic success. It would appear that the combined population of the Republic of Ireland has more of a work ethic that their combined neighbours in Northern Ireland. The surveys do not point to a correlation between any denomination of the Christian faith and a work ethic, although they do point to a correlation between religious commitment and a work ethic. Perhaps if the population of Northern Ireland pulled together and took a leaf from the people in the Republic, this island as a whole could be more productive; thus in turn working to the benefit of all who inhabit this island; Catholic, Protestant and otherwise.

    Bradley, J. (1999), “The History of Economic Development in Ireland, North and South”, in Heath, A., Breen, R. & Whelan, C. (eds.), Ireland North and South: Perspectives from Social Science, Oxford: Oxford University Press

    Fahey, T., Hayes, B. & Sinnott, R. (eds., 2005), “Work, subjective well-being and social capital”, in Conflict and Consensus: A study of values and attitudes in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Dublin: The Institute of Public Administration

    Greeley, A. (1999), “The Religions of Ireland”, in Heath, A., F., Breen, R. & Whelan, C., T. (eds.), Ireland North and South: Perspectives from Social Science, Oxford: Oxford University Press

    Haralambos, M. & Holborn, M. (eds., 2000), Sociology: Themes and Perspectives (5th edition), Hammersmith: Harper Collins

    Weber, M. (1974), The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, London: Unwin University Books

  • Mick Fealty

    So you’re saying Ireland falsifies Weber’s theory? For a start, I am not sure it’s fair to characterise it was Prods hard working, Catholics lazy…

  • galloglaigh

    Not my words Mick, I have given a reference to where that was written. It’s not my opinion, it comes from research carried out by the The Institute of Public Administration, and the essay does make a fallacy of the propaganda that was seen in Ireland since 1800.

  • IJP

    why are protestant countries baling out catholic countries?

    Well, they’re not really – the Netherlands has more declaring Catholic than Protestant, and in Germany it’s close to even (with the richest parts of Germany, by and large, being majority Catholic).

    Frau Merkel is noteworthy in being the first post-war German Chancellor from the Centre Right who is Protestant, which doesn’t fit the theory either! That said, the German “Centre Right” is a different beast from the British one (I’m probably more comfortable with the German one, hence my own confusion!)

    For all that, there is little doubt that theology plays a significant role in how people vote. Even in England, declared and practising Anglicans are much more likely to vote Conservatives; Methodists traditionally vote Liberal/LibDem; Irish Catholics vote Labour. That does not preclude the possibility of crossover (i.e. it is far from unknown for Anglicans to vote Labour or Methodists to vote Conservative), but clearly there is a cultural (and ultimately theological) bearing there.

  • “The underlying difference between Catholics and Protestants is economic”

    Mick, there are three major (nominal) religious denominations and their related influences here rather than two: Catholic, Presbyterian and Episcopalian. From that report: Weber makes it clear that his famous hypothesis concerns explicitly not the Lutheran, but the Reformed variant, started with the Swiss rather than the German Reformation..

    Presbyterianism flows from the Calvinist rather than the Lutheran strain and Episcopalianism in NI seems to have a larger Calvinist component than its southern neighbour. Even within Presbyterianism we’ve had ‘Old (Testament) Light’ and ‘New (Testament) Light’. The latter is associated with Francis Hutcheson, a Down/Armagh man, who was a key figure in the (Scottish) Enlightenment; the former with his father. Perhaps a perusal of those middle-class often Presbyterian businessmen associated with the formation and evolution of the United Irishmen and the development of Belfast as a major industrial hub would identify more of the New Light than of the Old Light variety.

  • DC

    In relation to Germany – the real divide is north and south, not east and west.

    Southern Germany subsidises the North and the wealthiest region is Bayern. Bayern as a region was totally untouched by the Protestant reformation.

    I think there is a lession there about evolution and revolution – too much revolution tends to disrupt and impoverish.

  • Greenflag

    @ DC ,

    ‘there is a lession there about evolution and revolution – too much revolution tends to disrupt and impoverish.’

    And not enough ‘revolution’ leads to stagnation and eventual relative impoverishment in comparison to other societies. Sociological , political and economic changes which at the time of initiation could be viewed as ‘evolutionary’ sometimes branch off into territories unknown and leave behind a political or economic wasteland . Think of all of those western intellectuals in the 1920’s and 1930’s who looked to the Soviet union as humanity’s future . Think of large sections within the British establishment and amongst the American corporate class in the 1930’s who viewed the German national socialists as the antidote to the then world’s economic and political woes .

    And think today of the strident neo conservatives who seem to believe that a society can function as a democracy when a tiny percentage of the population increasingly hold most of the wealth while the middle and working classes and the marginalised are squeezed ever further .

    As to Germany your comment is a bit off . There is a real divide between East and West economically which is a legacy of the East’s 50 plus years of Soviet occupation . The present emergence of Bavaria and the south generally is due to the fact that these regions were to the forefront of the new technologies which sprung up since the 1980’s . At the same time the most economically developed part of Germany i.e the Ruhr Gebiet lost out in competition for the newer industries .

    Similar developments have taken place within other countries in recent times such as those in Ireland between North & South , and in Belgium between Walloonia and the Flemish provinces . Whatever about in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution ‘religion ‘ seems to be of little relevance today . The point could be made however that it is the most ‘irreligious ‘ societies such as those of Scandinavia as well as the Netherlands that have made the most economic and social progress and who have suffered least during this current recession . Iceland being an exceptional exception to the general rule as it were .

    Perhaps it’s time for another Max Weber but this time around positing a new theory re the correlation between high degrees of political and social stability and relative economic equality and the lack of ‘religion’ .

    For a start take a look at those societies which could be seen as overdosed on ‘religion ‘ i.e the USA, Northern Ireland and Iran among others ?

    I would include the Republic in the above were it not for the fact that last weeks presidential election saw the only devout Roman Catholic candidate get a mere 2% of the vote and was even outvoted by 3 to 1 by a gay Protestant .

  • Greenflag

    galloglaigh ,

    Good post and while I would concur with most of it at least in the Irish (North and South ) context it’s when you move away from the island of Ireland that it breaks down or at least this one below does ‘

    ‘although they do point to a correlation between religious commitment and a work ethic.

    In societies where there is almost zero religious committment such as those of the Scandinavian countries the work ethic and social and personal responsibility ethic is of a much higher standard . The Swedes for instance actually ‘trust ‘ their politicians or at least a higher percentage of Swedes do than any other european nation .

    While there may be ‘roots ‘ in the general statement re religious committment and work ethic perhaps this too owes it’s origin to overfevered Victorian age imaginations who noted how the poor suddenly became much more industrious having been fed and preached at for an hour or so in some bethel in Birmingham etc . George Orwell iirc commented on the same in his ‘Down and Out in Paris and London ‘

    German’s today are in despair over the behaviour of the ouzo loving Greeks who can’t even keep an agreement for 7 days . Meanwhile the dissolute Irish continue as heretofore with a stiff upper lip and a tight rear end as we all await the coming implosion of the Eurozone or a more likely Greek temporary expulsion though self inflicted via the ‘referendum ‘mechanism perhaps.

  • Decimus

    The Celtic Tiger era shows that predominantly Catholic areas of the island can also have economic success. It would appear that the combined population of the Republic of Ireland has more of a work ethic that their combined neighbours in Northern Ireland.

    galloglaigh,

    Would you consider that someone who had a windfall from the lottery, and then proceeded to piss it all up against the wall, had a ‘work ethic’?

  • antamadan

    There are a lot of myths that don’t seem to make sense. In the article, an IQ test supposedly showed that NI Catholics are se 15 points more stupid than NI the Protestants, where 100 is the average English person’s IQ. If true, it would be hard to explain how that NI Catholics get (slightly) better school grades than NI Protestants !

    Has anyone any detail on this IQ test by the way? How could it come out so different?. Were the Catholics tested on the morning after St. Pats day, or were the questions Brito-centric or what?.

  • antamadan
  • Decimus

    Vital percentage points were lost when they were asked to spell the name of a northwest walled city and name the UK’s Monarch.

  • DC

    Greenflag

    Re being ‘off’, it was an analysis given by Michael Sturmer, german historian and one time advisor to Helmut Kohl, that’s where i got it from, he described it like that – the south subsidising the north. Listen below:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b016g4v2/Book_of_the_Week_State_of_the_Union_Episode_2/

    I don’t think the wealth was simply generated from the 1950s, but goes further back in time and is more to do with the tradition and culture of southern Germany – or the lands now known as southern Germany – such lands and people being less affected and less disrupted – relatively speaking – throughout the ages of the Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire and the Napoleonic Wars.

    Napoleon ended up in Berlin at one stage so the havoc that that would have created speaks for itself whenever the Prussians were defeated in and around 1806 time, bringing down the Holy Roman Empire.

    So basically, with southern Germany sticking with Roman Catholicism and remaining loyal to that meant it was better protected than the north, the north being protestant – was at times – embattled against all of that – leaving it on the outside and therefore looking around elsewhere for alliances and of course out of pocket because it wasn’t getting money from Rome.

    Also northern Germany used to include Prussia, so once again it could be argued that the two world wars created more havoc across northern Europe – relatively speaking – and more disruption was found in the north meaning more protestants were disrupted and out of pocket.

    A case in point being that even take for instance the German generals in WWII – a lot of them were given money by Hitler when hitting the age of 65 and for other campaigns and indeed being bribed by him to go off stage or toe the line – such generals bought landed estates in Prussia which was ultimately lost to the Russians – Prussia is now called Kaliningrad?

    The reason why I mention the german generals of WWII is because of that cohort 65% were protestant, the foot soldiers in the Wehrmacht was the reverse of that – 65% of the normal army if you like were catholic. If the protestant german generals had only bought land in Munich things might’ve been different, but then again why would they seeing as Munich is pretty much catholic in culture and style.

  • In this context could “economic” be the difference between having a job and not having a job (in the “old”N.I.)?

  • FuturePhysicist

    @Mick

    Catholics are stereotyped for their “guilt complex” not laziness. I don’t know what the Orthodox Christians get stereotyped with, .

  • Cynic2

    Catholic education may well be a key factor

  • galloglaigh

    Decimus

    someone who had a windfall from the lottery

    What’s your point?

  • Mr E Mann

    >Oh yes why are protestant countries baling out
    >catholic countries?
    You mean majority-Catholic France and evenly-split Germany bailing out majority-Orthodox Greece?

  • Greenflag

    ‘You mean majority-Catholic France and evenly-split Germany bailing out majority-Orthodox Greece?’

    Don’t forge the evenly split Dutch or if you include the Flemings the majority Catholic Dutch speakers .On the other hand one must’nt omit formerly Lutheran Sweden helping to bail out formerly majority Catholic Ireland nor indeed and probably the best example to be followed by all is the formerly majority Lutheran Icelanders telling the majority protestant Brits and majority Catholic Dutch speakers to ‘piss off ‘ more or less .

    To put it crudely the Greek Orthodoxians have looked to the Protestant Icelanders and seen an example to follow and why would’nt they ?

  • Greenflag

    @ DC , thanks for that link -unfortunately it timed out for Sturmer’s piece but I listened to the French perspective which featured Victor Hugo’s ‘prophecies’ re a European Union . I believe Fintan O’Toole is getting an airing tomorrow so that should be of interest.

    As to your reply above I was looking at German economic history in the 1870-1970 timeframe which saw the Ruhr area becoming the industrial heart of the then Empire and later the 12 year Hitler epoch and the post war Wirtschaftswunder under Erhardt and Adenauer .

    Going back further I accept your point re Southern Germany being more protected and less disrupted than the North . In the ‘Thirty Years War of Religion ‘ some one third of the German population was killed i.e 7 million out of some 23 million estimated and most of those deaths would have been along the ‘religious frontier and in the more northerly areas iirc.

    There was also the age long links between the HRH and Italy i.e Rome with Germans looking south for not only products but also for artistic ‘inspiration ‘ and presumably just as today sunshine .

    Back to the present the Germans were in favour of granting the Greeks a 60% write off whereas the French wanted to limit the write off to 40% . in the end the big deal was settled on 50% which indicates the kind of horsetrading that was on offer . The Greek ‘people ‘ were not consulted so now there will be a referendum which seems fair enough to me . After all it was the Greek economic and political elite who enabled this situation to develop over the past decade .

    We should NOT forget the private financial sector’s role in the financial collapse of Greece or indeed Ireland or Iceland or the USA .It was’nt government that rubber stamped subprime garbage mortgages and lied that they were Triple A . it was’nt Government that invented the that invented the Collateralised mortgage obligations or devised ways to sell CDO’s and other sliced and diced ‘investment ‘instruments to unwary investors nor did any government in the western economies invent the credit default swap . While governments can be accused of ‘stupidity’ and ‘criminal negligence ‘ in their supposed oversight there should be ABSOLUTELY no doubt that most of the blame for the current fiasco lies squarely at the feet of the Wall St and City financiers .

    That said what is absolutley shameful is the reluctance of western governments everywhere to defend or protect the people’s interests as opposed to the interests of that 1% who hold most of the financial paper .

    They should be told as the Icelander’s told to go wipe their rear ends with the ‘waste paper ‘ that they the financial services sector itself loosed on the world economy .

  • galloglaigh

    Greenflag

    The Thirty Years War is an interesting period when talking about capitalism. That period saw the emergence of the modern capitalist state. The Dutch Huguenots seen an opportunity to make money on the back of conflict. It could be said that they actually brought us the concept of a capitalist banking system. It still doesn’t support Weber’s theory, as there was no ‘work ethic’, rather a chance to make a fortune on the suffering of the population of Central Europe. The banks are still doing this, by lending money to the new-age religious warriors, the Coalition of the Willing (to murder anybody for a few barrels of oil).

  • Brian

    ‘Oh yes why are protestant countries baling out catholic countries?’

    Majority catholic france and split germany bailing out greek orthodox Greece doesn’t really fit the bill, now does it?

    Anyway, it’s Atheist China that is bailing out all sorts of Western countries by buying their debt.

  • Greenflag

    @ galloglaigh,

    Dutch Huguenots ? They were French at least originally . They fled France as a result of religious persecution and sectarian killing and settled mainly in Southern England , Ireland and some I’m sure made their way to the Netherlands as well as a contingent left for South Africa .

    Here’s an interesting interview linked below with Niall Ferguson the famous /infamous historian who looks at the big picture re western civilisation as compared to the rest and why the former ‘dominated ‘ the last for the better part of 500 years .

    Heres an excerpt

    What distinguished the West from the Rest — the mainsprings of global power — were six identifiably novel complexes of institutions and associated ideas and behaviors. For the sake of simplicity, I summarize them under six headings:

    1. Competition

    2. Science

    3. Property rights

    4. Medicine

    5. The consumer society

    6. The work ethic

    To use the language of today’s computerized, synchronized world, these were the six killer applications — the killer apps — that allowed a minority of mankind originating on the western edge of Eurasia to dominate the world for the better part of 500 years.

    Now, before you indignantly write to me objecting that I have missed out some crucial aspect of Western ascendancy, such as capitalism or freedom or democracy (or for that matter guns, germs and steel), please read the following brief definitions:

    1. Competition — a decentralization of both political and economic life, which created the launch-pad for both nation-states and capitalism

    2. Science — a way of studying, understanding and ultimately changing the natural world, which gave the West (among other things) a major military advantage over the Rest

    3. Property rights — the rule of law as a means of protecting private owners and peacefully resolving disputes between them, which formed the basis for the most stable form of representative government

    4. Medicine — a branch of science that allowed a major improvement in health and life expectancy, beginning in Western societies, but also in their colonies

    5. The consumer society — a mode of material living in which the production and purchase of clothing and other consumer goods play a central economic role, and without which the Industrial Revolution would have been unsustainable

    6. The work ethic — a moral framework and mode of activity derivable from (among other sources) Protestant Christianity, which provides the glue for the dynamic and potentially unstable society created by apps 1 to 5

    Ferguson in the interview gives a slight import to Max Weber’s factor in the overall -but whats more interesting is his adding to Jared Diamond’s ‘geography ‘ determinant by layering over that with his view that ‘institutions ‘ made the difference .

    Fergusons interpretation of the effect of the Reformation on economic growth and the growth of personal freedoms starts at about 21 minutes into the interview . Ferguson sees the ‘word ethic’ as being the determining factor in creating the work ethic and not ‘protestantism ‘per se.

    Well worth a listen to for anyone interested in the bigger picture than the local themuns and ussums quagmire that keeps Ni in it’s self imposed thinking straightjacket.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/11/02/141942357/how-the-west-beat-the-rest-six-killer-apps

  • Nunoftheabove

    Good shout Greenflag, thanks for posting.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    One of my friends is a Bavarian Protestant – saw him just now – but yes Bavaria is otherwise very Catholic. Not sure the North-South divide is the only big one on Germany; it’s a very federal, decentralised country and on top of that the legacy of the East-West divide is still, I understand, pretty strong.

    But the idea that Protestant countries are bailing out RC ones is absurd. If you take the economically strongest regions of Europe together, they’d be pretty evenly Catholic and Protestant mixed – France (mainly RC), Belgium (mainly RC), NL (mixed), Germany (mixed), Austria (RC), Scandinavia (mainly Protestant).

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    That’s not including the most prosperous bits of Spain and Italy, both Catholic.

  • lamhdearg

    weather?