It has long been recognized that economic performance of a country is linked in some way with characteristics of its population. Which characteristics and in what proportion has been matter of much investigation. Max Weber has influentially argued for religion, others have used more encompassing terms like culture or heritage. I’ve also read about inquires into relationship between IQ and the wealth of nations.
Obviously the idea is not easy to capture and quantify, but I think most people would agree that there is some underlying truth to it. Nations are obviously different in many aspects. But which of them influence their welfare?
One particular term that is used here in Croatia is mentality. Often in the context of something being a good idea or policy and “our mentality” preventing successful execution, but sometimes also in positive contexts.
I can’t begin to describe how annoying I find the concept. Why? Because if national mentality exists, it’s a product of centuries of collective expirience and a persistant feature. Government policy may shift incentives around and influence behaviour of individuals, but changing the mentality of the nation would be beyond the power of bureaucrats.
The idea that economic development is largely dependent on a variable that for practical purposes doesn’t vary at all is a pretty depressing one. I refuse to accept it . We have to be able to change our situation through conscious effort.
I am not saying that characteristics of a population can’t be measured at all. I’m saying that it’s doubtful whether we can derive anything meaningful from those measurements. Here is an interesting work by Geert Hofstede (you can compare any two countries on the site):
Those variables are as good indicators of values/mentality as any. But how do they relate to economic performance? I’ve looked through the country list and found no obvious relationships. It seems that if there are any, they are as elusive as the definition of mentality itself.