Compared with students from developed Western nations, students from less democratic countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman and Belarus tended to punish not only free-loaders, but also cooperative players, with the result that cooperation in their groups plummeted.Man existed as a social and political creature long before there was anything like a modern economy. Cultures in which the individual learns to compete and cooperate while possessing a moral compass based upon something like the golden rule are at a distinct advantage. They can gain from more of the positives and fewer of the negatives in a free market system compared with other cultures. Institutions are a reflection and reinforcement of a societys' culture and beliefs. That this matters and that a free a moral people will fare better than people in a culture of envy or a collectivist society is my idea of social justice.
When players had the option to punish, the groups tended to display more cooperation, which is consistent with past research showing that the ability to punish can help foster cooperative behaviour. However, in some countries, 'selfish' players also punished cooperative players, perhaps as a means of revenge for punishments they had suffered, or maybe as a way of punishing do-gooders for showing them up. The researchers called this 'anti-social punishment', and the groups where this occurred tended to cooperate less.
Anti-social punishment occurred more in those countries, including Belarus and Saudi Arabia, shown by surveys to have less faith in the rule of law and less belief in civic cooperation. In a commentary on the findings, published in the same journal, Herbert Gintis of the Sante Fe Institute, said the results challenge the way people have tended to view capitalist democracies. "The success of democratic market societies may depend critically upon moral virtues as well as material interests, so the depiction of civil society as the sphere of 'naked self-interest' is radically incorrect," he wrote.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Culture matters, sometimes in a big way. See here: