Sunday, January 13, 2008

Spiritual Capital

Via a post at Opinio Juris, I read about the value of religious freedom and tolerance for economic development:

Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary of Harvard University have used the results of World Values Surveys to study the relation between religion and economic attitudes. They found that many religious beliefs concerning cooperation, government, working women, legal rules, thriftiness and the market economy are conducive to higher per-capita income and growth. Religion appears to have an effect on economic growth and development by fostering thrift, a work ethic, honesty and openness to strangers. This has lead to the notion of "spiritual capital," analogous to human capital, which focuses on knowledge and behavior stemming from transcendent concepts and ultimate concerns.

Before nationalism, religion was the primary mechanism for distance-trust. There is an economic comparative advantage for people who can use a shared religious heritage to overcome the lack of proximity. The Catholic Church is an excellent example of a religious vehicle for the global flow of financial capital, evidence of which you can find in my "4 Dead in Ohio" post.

Sharing faith can facilitate a wide variety of transactions, liberating business deals from the narrow constraints of hyper-locality as found in Bay Area economic micro-clusters. This Flat World geography might help us locate economic flows and tap into rapid growth. I'm not suggesting that Pittsburgh or the Rust Belt get religion, but recognize the opportunities in the exceptions to the rule of proximity.

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