Money Mania, By Country

The Economist lies about Russia, it has beef with France, and in general it is far more useful as a barometer of Anglo-Saxon elite opinion than as a good source of objective information on the real world. Nonetheless, it does have the occasional gold nugget, and even one gold vein – its Daily Charts blog.

After all, one can rarely argue with cold, raw statistics, and opinion polls.

Above is a chart from early April about the importance Europeans attach to being rich. It’s funny the extent to which it confirms almost every relevant stereotype in the book (in general, the act of stereotyping is very much maligned, but that’s for another post). Russians and Ukrainian gold-diggers, oligarchs, mafia. Israel – Jews LOL. Greeks have a reputation for being a very mercantile people. Czechs are individualists, so it makes sense that they’re high up there too.

At the other end of the scale, you have the Scandinavian countries that operate under the self-effacing principles of Jante Law, and the French with their rich anti-capitalist intellectual traditions and love for existentialist philosophy. In the middle we have quintessentially bourgeois nations such as the UK, and Germany – they love themselves some money, but Protestantism has long encouraged them to be low-key about it.

Comments

  1. I saw this and thought if fit preconceptions quite well. Except for Russia, I didn’t know Russians were the *most* materialist. Do you think that has been the typical state throughout history or is it a backlash against the Communist-era values?

    There was also this hilarious chart on national stereotypes recently which fits every prejudice you can imagine: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/today-in-european-stereotypes/2012/05/29/gJQAT6UTzU_blog.html

    • I certainly think it’s a post-Communist artifact; sociologists (and myself, when I began blogging) frequently stressed what we say as the collectivist nature of Russian society. However, the mounting evidence is that this interpretation, while no doubt valid for the Tsarist and Soviet eras, is now increasingly obsolete.

      For instance, the percentage of Russians in 2012 saying that “free market capitalism is fatally flawed – and a new economic system is needed” is now fairly low at 22%, and essentially equivalent to moderate Anglo countries like the UK (23%), Canada (20%), and Australia (18%). And much lower than France (41%) and Spain (42%) (I would however note that confidence in markets in Ukraine is lower than in Russia; presumably because it had less success with them).

      Another interesting thing is the generational pattern. In Russia, it is young people who are most enthusiastic about the free market system, whereas the older generations largely holds to Soviet mores. This is the exact opposite of the US, in which the youngest generation actually marginally favors socialism over capitalism (that said, I do wonder how US generational results would look like if you broke it down by race; the link also indicates that Hispanics and Blacks both favor socialism over capitalism, and it’s well-known that their share of the population is larger in the younger cohorts).

  2. yalensis says:

    the French with their rich anti-capitalist intellectual traditions and love for existentialist philosophy…
    Sorry, but any time somebody says the words “French existentialist” in the same sentence, I am left with no choice except to point out that the so-called “French existentialist” philosophy was artifact of a handful of creepy no-talent pseudo-intellectuals who collaborated with Nazis during WWII, found that they bet on the wrong horse, and then set out to prove that Life Is Meaningless. This was their way of avoiding personal responsibility for their earlier actions. I would respect these philosophers more if they just stood up and declaimed, “Yeah, I helped Hitler. So what? You gotta problem with that??” Instead of wasting everybody’s time with their phony Weltanschauung.

    • Wait, wot? Sartre was a closer Nazi? Camus? Simone de Beauvoir?

      • yalensis says:

        Well, maybe not Simone de Beauvoir…
        Okay, so maybe not Sartre either. He wasn’t a Nazi, just a draft dodger, a little too cozy with the Germans, and notice how he took a Jew’s job at the Lycee:

        In 1939 Sartre was drafted into the French army, where he served as a meteorologist.[23] He was captured by German troops in 1940 in Padoux,[24] and he spent nine months as a prisoner of war—in Nancy and finally in Stalag 12D, Trier, where he wrote his first theatrical piece, Barionà, fils du tonnerre, a drama concerning Christmas. It was during this period of confinement that Sartre read Heidegger’s Being and Time, later to become a major influence on his own essay on phenomenological ontology. Because of poor health (he claimed that his poor eyesight and exotropia affected his balance) Sartre was released in April 1941. Given civilian status, he recovered his teaching position at Lycée Pasteur near Paris, settled at the Hotel Misgiven a new position at Lycée Condorcet, replacing a Jewish teacher who had been forbidden to teach by Vichy law.
        (…)
        After coming back to Paris in May 1941, he participated in the founding of the underground group Socialisme et Liberté with other writers Simone de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Toussaint Desanti and his wife Dominique Desanti, Jean Kanapa, and École Normale students. In August, Sartre and Beauvoir went to the French Riviera seeking the support of André Gide and André Malraux. However, both Gide and Malraux were undecided, and this may have been the cause of Sartre’s disappointment and discouragement. Socialisme et liberté soon dissolved and Sartre decided to write, instead of being involved in active resistance. He then wrote Being and Nothingness, The Flies, and No Exit, none of which were censored by the Germans, and also contributed to both legal and illegal literary magazines.
        After August 1944 and the Liberation of Paris, he wrote Anti-Semite and Jew. In the book he tries to explain the etiology of “hate” by analyzing antisemitic hate. Sartre was a very active contributor to Combat, a newspaper created during the clandestine period by Albert Camus, a philosopher and author who held similar beliefs. Sartre and Beauvoir remained friends with Camus until 1951, after the publication of Camus’ The Rebel. Later, while Sartre was labeled by some authors as a resistant, the French philosopher and resistant Vladimir Jankelevitch criticized Sartre’s lack of political commitment during the German occupation, and interpreted his further struggles for liberty as an attempt to redeem himself. According to Camus, Sartre was a writer who resisted, not a resistor who wrote.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sartre

        • Yog-Sothoth, the All in One and One in All says:

          I.e., the claim is that they collaborated with the Nazis is bullshit.

  3. Jennifer Hor says:

    I don’t know if this anecdote is true but I’ve heard that the only countries where the original format of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”? failed when it was imported were Japan and Sweden. The reasons are very revealing of the mind-set of Japanese and Swedish societies. The show failed in Japan because people were upset at the idea of a lowly employee suddenly having more money than his higher-ranked (but maybe stupider) boss at work and that would throw the social hierarchy into chaos. In Sweden the show failed because people thought it was unfair that one person might be “richer” than everyone else. In both cases, the countries’ social hierarchies were seen to be threatened.

    Funny thing about Sweden is that if you’re perceived to be disadvantaged or poor, Swedes do everything to pull you up to their level with social welfare but once you’re on par with everyone else, they do everything to make sure you stay there and not get ahead – with high taxes! This is the Jante Law at work. (In Australia and New Zealand, it’s called cutting down tall poppies.)

    Japan and Sweden still have the WWTBAM show but I believe the money rewards are not very high. In Japan you can win up to 10 million yen (US$110,000) but you have to answer all questions within a set time limit. In Sweden you can win up to 1 million kroner (US$137,500) and the show uses a risk format similar to the Russian and German versions of the show.

  4. How much is this real and how much is this a “translation” effect in which the question is slightly different asked in different languages

Leave a Reply