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Thread: Are some countries doomed to high unemployment due to their genetic pool ?

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.

    Are some countries doomed to high unemployment due to their genetic pool ?



    I was reading in The Economist that "many of society's ills, from economic stagnation to poor social mobility, could be solved by creating a more entrepreneurial society." The timing couldn't be better as I had been thinking about that very issue lately. Why is it that northern European countries, especially Germanic ones, have for so long had a lower unemployment rate than other countries, regardless of the economic climate ? I believe this indeed has something to do with the fact that northern European people are a particularly entrepreneurial bunch. Not only are they less afraid of taking risks, they are also more individualistic and independent than almost any other cultural group on the planet. Northern Europeans are therefore more likely to be self-employed or to start their own company.

    Eight years ago I wrote about individualism vs collectivism and the five cultural dimensions used by IBM psychologist Geert Hofstede to compare working cultures around the globe. The two most interesting dimensions are individualism and uncertainty avoidance.

    Individualism is a trait shared by ethnically Celtic and Germanic countries. For instance, North Italy (Celtic) is very individualistic, while South Italy (Greek) is far more collectivist. All non-European cultures are strongly collectivist. Collectivist-minded people like to feel part of a group and are much more likely to become employees or civil servants. That is why in a country like Japan (Asian therefore collectivist), as developed as it is, people will almost always choose to work for a company (the bigger the better) rather than be self-employed. Even professionals like doctors, lawyers and architects prefer to work in shared offices or firms than have their own office as they would in northern Europe.

    Uncertainty avoidance is a slightly more difficult concept to grasp. People with a high uncertainty avoidance will take all the measures they can to limit risks and have things under control at all time, trying to foresee any eventuality. They would plan a trip well in advance, booking their hotels ahead and knowing exactly where they would be going. Ideally they prefer to travel in organised tours rather than by themselves. It's safer and more comforting. Individuals with a low uncertainty avoidance will take a last minute flight without knowing exactly where they would be going and adjusting their plans on the spot.

    Even legal systems reflect the level of uncertainty avoidance. Roman and Napoleonic legal system (high uncertainty avoidance) trying to codify every possible infringement of the law. In contrast, English common law is much more compact and flexible, privileging a case-by-case approach at the judge's discretion.

    Like for collectivism, the "default" (or ancestral) human nature is a high uncertainty avoidance. According to Hofstede's scores, only the Scandinavians, Brits, Irish, Chinese and Vietnamese have a low uncertainty avoidance (the lowest being the Danes). There is surely a genetic factor too, since neighbouring populations (the Dutch, Finns, Southeast Asians) have an average score, and all other nationalities have a high score (even the Germans, who are more Celtic or Slavic in that regard).

    When I was a student, I backpacked for a few months around Australia, and I was quite baffled by the fact that out of the hundreds of other backpackers I met, about 40% were English (not British as I only met one Scot and no Welsh), 30% were Dutch (but not a single Fleming), 20% were Scandinavian (mostly Danish), and the remaining 10% covered all other nationalities (mostly Japanese, German, Irish and French with a few occasional American, Canadian). Wherever you go around the world, you will always meet English and Dutch people. They have travel in their blood. The more out-of-the-beaten-track and adventurous the destination, the higher their proportion to other nationalities. I talk from experience, having myself travelled to about 50 countries.

    I haven't met a single southern European backpacker in Australia and very few in India or Southeast Asia. I think that tells a lot about the cultural difference between northern and southern Europe. Interestingly, England and the Netherlands have the lowest combined scores for uncertainty avoidance and collectivism. In other words, English and Dutch people are individualistic, independent risk-takers. It is no surprise that they are so entrepreneurial too, and that they spawned vast colonial empires developed almost solely by private entrepreneurs (East & West India Companies) as opposed to state-sponsored expeditions like in the case of France, Spain, Germany or Japan.

    Why do you think it is that English colonies fared so well ? Because more people migrated there to populate them ? Yes, but why ? British people having a low uncertainty avoidance, more individualistic and entrepreneurial, they were less afraid of leaving everything behind and migrate to the new colonies to start a new life. They were more successful at it too. In contrast, the Spaniards conquered the Americas in search for gold, silver and precious stones. They were motivated by greed, then usually came back to Spain to spend the fortune they had acquired. Others just went to convert the pagans (religious zeal). The most ethnically European former Spanish colonies today are Uruguay and Argentina, which both have big non-Iberian communities (French, Italian, German), mostly from 20th century immigration (far less adventurous than in past centuries). French colonies were almost only settled by the King's soldiers to protect the state's interests, but didn't attract a lot of immigrants. English colonies were not commissioned by the state, by individual enterprises, and each colony was completely independent from the next.

    The Dutch colonisation of South Africa is the one rare other example of a major European colony founded by a group of people just leaving their homeland of their own will to create a new colony of their own without seeking fortune or thinking of extending their country's dominion. Actually the Dutch, Danes and Swedes all had minor colonies in North America that were all later absorbed by the mass of British migrants. This included New Amsterdam (now called New York), and what would become the states of New Jersey and Delaware (New Sweden).

    I am convinced that entrepreneurialism, like individualism and uncertainty avoidance, is deeply rooted is one's genes. One cannot choose if he/she is individualistic or not, no more than he/she can choose if he is a risk-taker or not. The ugly truth behind this is that countries where the gene pool has a high percentage of entrepreneur-minded, independent ("self-employed-minded") people will naturally have a lower unemployment in equal circumstances compared to a country of collectivist-minded people with a high fear of risk. This is undoubtedly why northern European countries as well as Canada and Australia, founded mostly by risk-taking entrepreneurs from northern Europe, will always cope better in the adversity than southern European countries (or most non-Western countries). When the economy is bad, employees and civil servants get fired and less people are hired to replace those who retire. You can't lose your job if you are self-employed. You don't have to worry about being hired if you start own your business.

    Instead of waiting for a company or the government to recruit them, the 50% of unemployed Spanish youths should try doing something useful and start their own businesses, instead of blaming society or the economy. Unless they just can't because their genes is preventing them, riddling them with fear. But who is to blame then ?

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    I agree. I've been always sensing that there is a strong genetic component how countries are governed, how people behave or how orderly institutions and businesses function in different countries.

    I have an observation about collectivism. It looks like it has a duel or split personality. Collectivism of southern countries is strong on personal level. People bond strongly, let's say very emotionally with people that they know, like family, villages, work places/ workers unions. They also have strong national identity, but it stops at identity. They mistrust governments, they don't want to pay taxes, and underground economy is rampant. On this level they strongly divide big social construct, like country or big business, between they and we. "We don't want to share with them, they always cheat and use us". But when family and friends come for a visit southern hospitality is unsurpassed.
    North Europe is different in this regard. People are more willing to pay taxes, people care more about common property, people are more willing to share wealth with all national we. North collectivism goes easily international giving to the whole world. On other hand, when guest and family come for a visit, you better bring your own food, lol.
    There was a great example of collectivism in Germany during this recession. When most businesses in the world were rushing to cut jobs, Germany's businesses, instead of letting unfortunate people go, decided to keep all workforce and cut everybody's working hours and salaries. That's collective sacrifice at it's best, and there wasn't much resistance from the work force to do so. It's all we, it was all for us.

    So, who is more collective, south or north? I guess we need to create sub groups for collectivism.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    I have an observation about collectivism. It looks like it has a duel or split personality. Collectivism of southern countries is strong on personal level. People bond strongly, let's say very emotionally with people that they know, like family, villages, work places/ workers unions. They also have strong national identity, but it stops at identity. They mistrust governments, they don't want to pay taxes, and underground economy is rampant. On this level they strongly divide big social construct, like country or big business, between they and we. "We don't want to share with them, they always cheat and use us". But when family and friends come for a visit southern hospitality is unsurpassed.
    That's a very good observation. East Asian countries differ from Southern Europe in this regard. I think this has to do with two other factors in addition to collectivism, namely clannishness and egalitarianism.

    Southern European, as well as Atlantic Celtic cultures like the Irish and the Scots, are clannish, meaning that they are collectivist at a family or village level, but not so much at a higher level (regional or national). They trust people they know, people close to them, but distrust big corporations and governments. That is why the current Indignant movement has its roots in Southern Europe and is not likely to be very popular in egalitarian Nordic countries. It is essentially fuelled by clans (families, groups of friends) antagonising the government, seen as the enemy, or at least a cold and distant entity rather than the representative of the people's interests. In Sweden anybody can visit the Prime Minister's office and check his/her mails. Try that in a Latin country, where people like Berlusconi or Sarkozy behave more like distant monarchs than accessible fellow citizens.

    Scandinavians and East Asians seem to care much more about their country's image and general well-being of their society as a whole, as opposed to that of their immediate entourage. This may be because they are more egalitarian people (although the opposite of egalitarianism is elitism, not clannishness). Let's just say that they have a wider sense of community, one that is not based on personal acquaintances or blood relatedness. That's why in times of economic hardship (like now), the Japanese will agree to cut their salaries in a spirit of solidarity, so that companies don't have to lay off employees.

    The "default" ancestral condition of humanity is clannishness, and Indo-Europeans were a perfect example of it. I expect the gene for "societal altruism" (I had to coin a word for it, as I couldn't think of an opposite of clannishness) to have appeared among Mongoloid people, as it is most common among Siberians and in East Asians. The Finns and Scandinavians may have inherited it from their partial Siberian ancestry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lebrok
    There was a great example of collectivism in Germany during this recession. When most businesses in the world were rushing to cut jobs, Germany's businesses, instead of letting unfortunate people go, decided to keep all workforce and cut everybody's working hours and salaries. That's collective sacrifice at it's best, and there wasn't much resistance from the work force to do so. It's all we, it was all for us.

    So, who is more collective, south or north? I guess we need to create sub groups for collectivism.
    Germany is an interesting case because, based on Hofstede's scores, it is less individualistic (score of 67) than all other Germanic countries (Netherlands=80, Denmark=74, Sweden=71), but also than Ireland (=70), Britain(=89), Belgium (=75), France (=71) or North Italy (=76). Austria (score=55) is even more collectivist, almost as much as Spain (=51), but not as much as Portugal (=27) and Greece (=35). It's probably the Slavic influence in Germany and Austria. Slavic countries have intermediary scores, the most collectivist being Russia (score=39), and the most individualistic being Poland (=60 ; probable Scandinavian and German influence).

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    I have created an entrepreneurialism index by subtracting Geert Hostede's uncertainty avoidances score from the individualism score. Here is why :

    - A high individualism score basically means that there is a will to do things on one's own. This increases a person's chance of becoming self-employed or start up a new business.

    - Uncertainty avoidance is essentially "fear of the unknown" or "fear of taking risks", a barrier that prevent a person from undertaking something new, embarking on an unknown path.

    The entrepreneur spirit is born out of high individualism and low uncertainty avoidance.

    Here is how the entrepreneurialism score is calculated. The Dutch have an individualism score of 80 and an uncertainty avoidance of 53. => 80 - 53 = 27. The score is positive, so Dutch people can be deemed to be entrepreneurial. If it was negative, the fear of risk would win over the personal desire to launch one's own business.

    Here is the ranking:


    Britain = +54
    Denmark = +51
    Australia = +49
    USA = +45
    Sweden = +42
    Ireland = +35
    Canada = +32
    New Zealand = +30
    Netherlands = +27
    Norway = +19
    Singapore = +18
    South Africa = +16
    Switzerland = +10
    Finland = +4
    Germany = +2
    (North) Italy = +1

    Estonia = 0

    Hungary = -2
    Hong Kong = -4
    China/Malaysia = -10
    France/Austria = -15
    Czech Republic = -16
    Belgium = -19
    Israel = -27
    Arab World = -30
    Poland = -33
    Brazil = -38
    Spain = -39
    Argentina = -40
    Thailand = -44
    Turkey = -48
    Mexico = -52
    Russia = -56
    Romania = -60
    Chile = -63
    Portugal/Greece = -77


    We see that the only countries with clear positive scores are North European or former British colonies. The only exception is Switzerland.

    Within Europe, Portugal and Greece have the lowest scores, and are the most geographically distant from the epicentre of the top scorers (historically adjusted to Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, as a good part of British genes come from Denmark and the Netherlands anyway).

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    I think the issue of entrepreneurial culture is interesting.
    I created a thread on it here

    "Recently British PM David Cameron said the government had no new tricks up its sleeve for creating jobs and growth and the only way out for the UK economy was the role of 'entrepreneurs'. article

    I have read that economies only emerge from recessions because of the growth created by new business start-ups. If this is true then the 'go-getter' culture within a country would play an essential part of it's economic future.

    Do you think your country has a healthy 'entrepreneurial' culture?
    "


    I don't think its a issue genetic issue but one of cultural attitudes.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Southern European, as well as Atlantic Celtic cultures like the Irish and the Scots, are clannish, meaning that they are collectivist at a family or village level, but not so much at a higher level (regional or national). They trust people they know, people close to them, but distrust big corporations and governments. That is why the current Indignant movement has its roots in Southern Europe and is not likely to be very popular in egalitarian Nordic countries. It is essentially fuelled by clans (families, groups of friends) antagonising the government, seen as the enemy, or at least a cold and distant entity rather than the representative of the people's interests.
    If Sweden had 20% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment I'm sure you'd see very similar behaviour to Spanish youths. Suggesting that these are genetic traits is very controversial. Are you suggesting that the Euro cannot work because the Southern Europeans are genetically inferior to Northern Europeans if looked at from a purely economic perspective? That they cannot achieve higher economic performance due to their behaviour which is dictated by their genes.

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    Collectivist country or not it's a matter of climate. You can be super individualistic in a huge frosty country, but that will not help you to survive, rather the opposite. The mentality of people is formed from the natural environment, geographic location, the amount of available resources, hardly it depend from genes. In Japan developed a collectivist mentality because there is a lack of resources combined with overcrowding. Russia more collectivist because here historically difficult to survive in the harsh natural conditions, with cold winters and short summers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anton, Bear's den View Post
    Collectivist country or not it's a matter of climate. You can be super individualistic in a huge frosty country, but that will not help you to survive, rather the opposite. The mentality of people is formed from the natural environment, geographic location, the amount of available resources, hardly it depend from genes. In Japan developed a collectivist mentality because there is a lack of resources combined with overcrowding. Russia more collectivist because here historically difficult to survive in the harsh natural conditions, with cold winters and short summers.
    I don't think the climate argument is credible, look at Canada:

    GDP per capita 13th

    Climate of Canada


    Contrast that with the GDP of American states and there is no pattern linked with climate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP

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    Quote Originally Posted by edao View Post
    I don't think the climate argument is credible, look at Canada:

    GDP per capita 13th

    Climate of Canada




    Contrast that with the GDP of American states and there is no pattern linked with climate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP
    75% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the Canadian/US border,it's pretty warm like Russia's southern regions
    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_perce...e_south_border
    But anyway, I did not mean that collectivism = poor & and big unemployment.
    Bad when you live in too cold natural conditions as well as in too warm. Compare Canada with Mexico or Libya. USA located in very good climatic zones. In Northern Europe northern latitudes are compensated by Gulf Stream & large amounts of water (climate is not continental like in Russia, without strong temperature fluctuations).

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    Quote Originally Posted by edao View Post
    I think the issue of entrepreneurial culture is interesting.
    I created a thread on it here
    [I]
    I didn't see it. Glad to see you are interested in the same issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by edao View Post
    I don't think its a issue genetic issue but one of cultural attitudes.
    Many character traits are genetic, and individualism is certainly one of the most genetic of them all. Not everybody in a same country, or even a same family inherits the same alleles though, which is why some people will always be more individualistic than others even with a common shared ancestry.

    It is the same for uncertainty avoidance. I noticed it very well in my own family. I personally have a much lower uncertainty avoidance than the Belgian average. When I was travelling around the age of 20, I always wondered why I never met other Belgians backpacking around the world. When I came back home, I shared my experiences with my family and friends, and most were amazed that I could just leave like that without an itinerary, not even knowing which country I would be visiting in the coming months, let alone knowing in which city I was going to end up a few days ahead. They, like typical Belgians, like everything to be planned in advance. They are too scared of the unknown. That's high uncertainty avoidance. I inherited my low uncertainty avoidance from my mother, who got it from her father, who got it from his mother... I have a large extended family, and managed to trace back exactly who had "adventurous genes" and who hadn't. My father's side of the family are extremely sedentary and have a very high uncertainty avoidance (they would take an umbrella with them on a perfectly sunny day just in case). On my mother side, a few of my cousins are adventurous like me, but most aren't. Those who are have at least one parent that is more adventurous too. By analysing everybody's character on the family tree for e few generations, I noticed that there was a clear inheritance pattern.

    If Sweden had 20% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment I'm sure you'd see very similar behaviour to Spanish youths
    That's what you say, but according to me not. Unemployment has sky-rocketed in Ireland, but the Irish reaction to that has been to move abroad to seek work (as they did in past centuries too), not to protest uselessly in the streets hoping for the "nanny state" to take care of them.

    Suggesting that these are genetic traits is very controversial. Are you suggesting that the Euro cannot work because the Southern Europeans are genetically inferior to Northern Europeans if looked at from a purely economic perspective? That they cannot achieve higher economic performance due to their behaviour which is dictated by their genes.
    It's not about superiority or inferiority. I am not judging, just observing differences. I know it can sound controversial, but who said that the world was fair ? Evolution is about better adapted genes replacing the others over time. What's important to keep in mind is that the same gene is not always the best adapted in all situations. I strongly recommend that you read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins if you haven't.

    Since the Middle Ages it seems that European society has favoured people with more entrepreneurial genes in them. The evolution of the population speaks for itself. As I explained last week :

    In 1350, France had a population of 20 million, only three times less than now. If we subtract all the people with foreign surnames in France (immigration of the last few centuries), we see that the French population has only grown 2.5 folds in the last 750 years, which is very little. In comparison, in 1350 Britain had a population of roughly 4 million (3m in England), Poland 2 million and Russia 8 million. These countries' populations have grown approximately 15 to 20 folds. Italy had 10 million and Spain 7 million - each experienced about a 6 fold increase.

    If you include emigration, the population of British and Irish descent globally approximates 200 million (including 60m in Europe, 20m in Australia and NZ, 20m in Canada, and 100m in the USA). That is a 40-fold growth from the 5 million British and Irish in 1340.

    Including people of mixed French descent in the US and Canada or other European countries, the French population has increased at best 5-fold during the same period - an amazing difference.

    Greece had about 3 million inhabitants in the 14th century. It now has 10 million + 7 million people with Greek ancestry around the world. That's less than a 6-fold increase.

    It is estimated that there are about 60 million of Italian descent outside Italy nowadays. So that would be a 12-fold increase in 750 years, but Italy had the biggest diaspora of any country in contemporary times.

    Germany and Scandinavia combined had an estimated 11.5m inhabitants in 1340. Now they exceed 100 million. Over 50 million Americans claim to be mostly of German or Scandinavian descent today. Add about 20 million more for the rest of Europe, Canada, Australia, South America... That's about 170 million, roughly a 15-fold increase since 1340.

    The Netherlands had barely 1 million inhabitants in the 14th century. There are now 16m Dutch people + at least 10 million people of Dutch descent in the USA and South Africa. That's a minimum a 26-fold increase, but could be 30-fold if the population was only 800,000 in 1340.

    The stats are based on estimations and not very accurate, I admit, but it gives a pretty good idea that the proportion of Northern Europeans to Southern Europeans increased considerably over time.

    In summary, the population growth since the 14th century has been (roughly) :

    - 40x for Britain and Ireland
    - 25-30x for the Netherlands
    - 15x for Germany and Scandinavia
    - 12x for Italy
    - 6x for Greece
    - 5x for France


    I can't calculate this for Spain and Portugal as the population of the colonies is too mixed with Native Americans and Africans. Then Latin America experienced a tremendous population boom thanks to the agricultural and industrial revolution from the early 20th century onwards, and is still growing fast. Brazil grew from 10m in 1872, and is now nearing 200 million. This growth is faster that anything Europe experienced any time in its history, even adjusting for the population living in the colonies before their independence. A similar phenomenon is happening in other developing countries especially in South Asia and Africa.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anton, Bear's den View Post
    Collectivist country or not it's a matter of climate. You can be super individualistic in a huge frosty country, but that will not help you to survive, rather the opposite. The mentality of people is formed from the natural environment, geographic location, the amount of available resources, hardly it depend from genes. In Japan developed a collectivist mentality because there is a lack of resources combined with overcrowding. Russia more collectivist because here historically difficult to survive in the harsh natural conditions, with cold winters and short summers.
    I think you confuse individualism and loner behaviour. Most cadres and managers in big corporations are very individualistic people. That doesn't prevent them for working with a lot of people. In fact, Scandinavians are excellent team workers, yet very individualistic in their opinions, choices, behaviour...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I think you confuse individualism and loner behaviour. Most cadres and managers in big corporations are very individualistic people. That doesn't prevent them for working with a lot of people. In fact, Scandinavians are excellent team workers, yet very individualistic in their opinions, choices, behaviour...
    Scandinavians just mixture of individualism and communalism. Pretty cold climate combined with easy access to the ice-free seas and easy access to the neighbors, therefore, they could always get the right products, resources, through trade or robbery. They always could exchange herring on wheat or something like that. Meanwhile in Siberian tundra is possible to trade only with bears.
    In modern world that separation on individualism and communalism is decreases because the development of scientific progress. Russia right now much more individualistic than 100 years ago because no need to have a community for personal survival anymore. Today everybody can be individualistic except overpopulated countries with lack of resources.

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    I agree with both Edao and Anton and don't think it can be genetic, rather something that has developed into a cultural mentality which was bought on by climatic conditions. In warmer climates there was simply no great need to work nearly as hard or for as long hours to produce enough to survive. Heat is also a big factor, it is simply physically impossible to work long hours in extreme heat.

    The genetic theory also does not explain why the millions of southern European immigrants in places like Australia or USA have done, financially, very well for themselves. Surely if it was genetic the immigrants would be no better off now than when they left Europe?

    You are correct Maciamo regarding the backpackers. Greeks (for example) travel a lot but there is nearly always family visits involved, no matter where in the world, and if a trip is simply a tourist thing they would always stay in hotels. In my experience northern Europeans are holidaying mostly in search of the sun but southern Europeans have that most of the time anyway so their reasons for travel will always differ.

    Having lived in Australia, one of the highest on the list, and Greece, the lowest lol, I would still prefer Greece over Australia. Sure in Australia people are comparatively well off, but work is ALL there is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antigone View Post
    I agree with both Edao and Anton and don't think it can be genetic, rather something that has developed into a cultural mentality which was bought on by climatic conditions. In warmer climates there was simply no great need to work nearly as hard or for as long hours to produce enough to survive. Heat is also a big factor, it is simply physically impossible to work long hours in extreme heat.
    Individualism and entrepreneurialism has nothing to do with how hard or how many hours one work. I am not talking about productivity here. The most productive countries in the world are France and Belgium, two countries that scored negatively in the entrepreneurialism index.

    If there wasn't a genetic factor, how comes that former British colonies, settled mostly by northern Europeans, are almost as individualistic and entrepreneurial as Britain, whatever the climate ? Be it in hot places like Florida, Texas, Arizona, California or Australia, or very cold ones like Canada, it doesn't seem to affect people's behaviour, even hundreds of years after leaving the mother land. You should know, you are Australian.

    Having lived in Australia, one of the highest on the list, and Greece, the lowest lol, I would still prefer Greece over Australia. Sure in Australia people are comparatively well off, but work is ALL there is.
    Thanks for sharing your personal preferences on which country to live, but this has nothing to do with the topic. It's a well-known fact that Mediterranean Europe is one of the best places to live in the world if you are retired or have plenty of money and don't need to work, or just prefer a more relaxed pace of life. The French Riviera, Italy and the Greek islands are all favourite hangouts for the the Jet Set.

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    Quote Originally Posted by edao View Post
    If Sweden had 20% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment I'm sure you'd see very similar behaviour to Spanish youths. Suggesting that these are genetic traits is very controversial. Are you suggesting that the Euro cannot work because the Southern Europeans are genetically inferior to Northern Europeans if looked at from a purely economic perspective? That they cannot achieve higher economic performance due to their behaviour which is dictated by their genes.
    well, as far as I know Spain has a higher human development than countries like Austria, Luxembourg or UK. When it comes to per-capita, which is something I don't like because it's not realistic, you have Andorra higher than most european countries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    I think you confuse individualism and loner behaviour. Most cadres and managers in big corporations are very individualistic people. That doesn't prevent them for working with a lot of people. In fact, Scandinavians are excellent team workers, yet very individualistic in their opinions, choices, behaviour...
    Maciamo, this is a very interesting statement, but I don't understand it quite.
    According to Wikipedia, collectivism is
    "... any philosophic, political, economic or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence
    of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals.
    Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation."

    But Isn't the most striking feature of a loner his lack of interdependence?
    His contributions to society are minimal, and in turn he does not
    benefit much from society. Thus interdependence is minimized, right?
    Thus according to wikipedia, loner behaviour would be very much individualistic.

    On the other hand, someone who "individualistically" makes decisions how
    to succeed or fit in society, state or group is very interdependent, because he
    either needs to interact strongly in order to manipulate the society he wants to
    succeed in, or he needs to follow the society norms in order to fit it. Both ways
    are interdependecies and usually not separable. If you are in a group, you
    immediately give and take somehow --> collectivism.
    Isn't he a collectivist then? I don't understand why team work is not
    considered as collectivism.

    Sorry for so many questions, but most of that was also meant as food
    for this thread in general.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    If there wasn't a genetic factor, how comes that former British colonies, settled mostly by northern Europeans, are almost as individualistic and entrepreneurial as Britain, whatever the climate ? Be it in hot places like Florida, Texas, Arizona, California or Australia, or very cold ones like Canada, it doesn't seem to affect people's behaviour, even hundreds of years after leaving the mother land. You should know, you are Australian.
    Yes I do know and it has nothing to do with gentics, and more to do with the old colonial superiority mentality and the stubborn belief that British or Northern European ways are better than that of indigenous people. This attitude still exists. Ever hear the term "gone native"? It was derogatory in the colonies and used for those who were perceived to have betrayed their class or race and chose to live more in accordance with their new enviroment.

    But you didn't answer my question. If it is gentic how come southern European immigrants do so well in their adopted countries? In fact, entrepreneurially speaking many immigrants actually do better than those descended from British or northern European stock.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Thanks for sharing your personal preferences on which country to live, but this has nothing to do with the topic. It's a well-known fact that Mediterranean Europe is one of the best places to live in the world if you are retired or have plenty of money and don't need to work, or just prefer a more relaxed pace of life. The French Riviera, Italy and the Greek islands are all favourite hangouts for the the Jet Set.
    Eh? What are you implying?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilhelm View Post
    well, as far as I know Spain has a higher human development than countries like Austria, Luxembourg or UK. When it comes to per-capita, which is something I don't like because it's not realistic, you have Andorra higher than most european countries.
    In this topic I am linking entrepreneurialism to the employment level. Many readers seem to confuse (un)employment for other things that are completely different (quality of life, development index, productivity, or whatever). If anything, Spain is a good example that one country can have a high development index despite high unemployment. France and Belgium are examples of high unemployment countries with high productivity. Actually, productivity tend to be invertly proportional to the employment rate (watch out that the employment rate is not the opposite of the unemployment rate !).

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by ElHorsto View Post
    Maciamo, this is a very interesting statement, but I don't understand it quite.
    According to Wikipedia, collectivism is
    "... any philosophic, political, economic or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence
    of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals.
    Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation."
    The most common problem in cultural studies is always one of definition. I used Geert Hofstede's definition of individualism and collectivism here :

    "Individualism (IDV) on the one side versus its opposite, collectivism, that is the degree to which individuals are inte-grated into groups. On the individualist side we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. The word 'collectivism' in this sense has no political meaning: it refers to the group, not to the state. Again, the issue addressed by this dimension is an extremely fundamental one, regarding all societies in the world."

    Quote Originally Posted by ElHorsto View Post
    But Isn't the most striking feature of a loner his lack of interdependence?
    His contributions to society are minimal, and in turn he does not
    benefit much from society. Thus interdependence is minimized, right?
    Thus according to wikipedia, loner behaviour would be very much individualistic.
    A loner is obviously individualistic, but not all individualistic people are loners ! Individualism is not as much about interacting with others as a general state of mind. In the thread How individualistic are you ?, I identified 8 categories of individualism :

    • Family
    • Living place
    • Work
    • Hobbies
    • Travel
    • In an international group
    • Society
    • Way of thinking


    You can of course add other categories or refine these ones in subgroups. For example, hobbies can include a sports subcategory. If you prefer to play team sports, you are more of a collectivist.If you prefer facing an opponent on your own, like in martial arts, athleticism, racket sports or bicycle/car racing, you are more of an individualist.

    If you are a family person, always present at family gatherings and events, you are a "familial collectivist". If you never meet your relatives because you prefer being on your own or spend more time for your hobbies, work or whatever, you are a "familial individualist".

    Do you like living on your own, or you just can't stand it because you need company all the time ?

    If you like travelling in organised tours, or with family or friends, you are a collectivist traveller. If you can't stand being with others because you can't decide where and when you go somewhere, what you want to visit, at what pace, and so on, then you are an individualistic traveller (which doesn't prevent you from socialising with other travellers on the way, for example at a youth hostel or guest house after a day of sightseeing).

    In an international group, do you naturally seek the company of your fellow citizens (because you feel part of the same group), or do you prefer to mingle with people of other countries (the more individualistic approach, not tied to one collectivity) ?

    In society, do you usually follow trends (fashion, latest gadgets, gossips, local events, recent societal issues, etc.) or are you constantly focused on your own interests without caring about what others do ?

    Are you easily influenced by what other people think ? Do you generally make decisions on your own or do you ask other people's opinions first ? If you were convinced that something was right but others told you you were wrong, would you listen to them or stick with your own reasoning ?

    Try to analyse your personal preferences for each category, make the total, and you will know if you are more individualistic or collectivist. Personally I am very individualistic for almost everything (although not exactly a loner as I interact with a lot of people everyday, and not just online).


    After explaining what is individualism, I hope everybody will understand that it has nothing to do with superiority. There are individualistic and collectivist characters, and each have their merits. However, I have often noticed that very collectivist-minded people tend to look down on very individualistic people and vice versa. It is in human nature to favour people and behaviours that are similar to our own, and criticise or condemn those that diverge.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Antigone View Post
    But you didn't answer my question. If it is gentic how come southern European immigrants do so well in their adopted countries? In fact, entrepreneurially speaking many immigrants actually do better than those descended from British or northern European stock.
    About 10% of the population of Wallonia (the French-speaking part of Belgium) is of South Italian descent (including those who are only half Italian in the 2nd and 3rd generation of immigrants). Most of them came to work in coal mines from the 1920's to the 1960's, but their children and grandchildren are now perfectly adapted. Many did open Italian restaurants (because it's an obvious thing to do) and a few even succeeded in politics (like Elio di Rupo who became the minister-president of Wallonia). But the majority still suffers from much higher unemployment than the rest of the population, and very few Belgian start-ups are founded by the descendants of Italian immigrants. Yet they are far better adapted socially than Moroccan immigrants, for instance, so it is not an integration problem.

    I don't have the data for the proportion of self-employed people and entrepreneurs of South Italian or Greek descent in North America or Australia, but I find it hard to believe that it is higher than for people of northern European descent.

    Many Italian Americans are doing very well financially, but if you check the list of famous Italian Americans, you'll see that it is mostly in the arts, entertainment (including Hollywood), academics and politics that they succeeded the most. Out of hundreds of people listed (hundreds only for actors and entertainers alone), there are only 15 entrepreneurs, and the only company I know among those they founded is Tropicana (the juices). The list also doesn't separate North and South Italians, which are very different genetically.

    Most famous American, Canadian or Australian companies were founded by people with British or Germanic-sounding names (including Ashkenazi Jews for that matter). Those founded by people of southern European (including French) descent are the exception rather than the rule.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    The most common problem in cultural studies is always one of definition. I used Geert Hofstede's definition of individualism and collectivism here :

    "Individualism (IDV) on the one side versus its opposite, collectivism, that is the degree to which individuals are inte-grated into groups. On the individualist side we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. The word 'collectivism' in this sense has no political meaning: it refers to the group, not to the state. Again, the issue addressed by this dimension is an extremely fundamental one, regarding all societies in the world."

    Thanks, the definition is indeed my problem here. According to Hofstede:

    - individualism: loose ties/interactions between individuals
    - collectivism: strong ties/interactions between individuals

    My own huble definition:

    - individualism: loose or sparse ties/interactions between individuals
    - collectivism: strong or frequent ties/interactions between individuals


    Your refining approach by different categories is also good.

    But I don't like Hofested's definition because the terms "loose" and "strong" in our case
    in this thread rather correspond to "dynamic" and "static", resp. Consequently the north-west
    european peoples tend to be just more socially mobile or dynamic (risk taking), but this is
    not exactly individualism in my definition, just social entrepreneursship. They can make
    individual actions or decisions for a collectivist goal (socialize). According to Hofstede this
    is indeed fully individualistic as you say, because interactions are disrupted. According
    to my definition it is only partially individualistic because the interactions are in fact
    disrupted for the sake of new interactions. This fits well to the free-market
    capitalism with its is high social mobility/dynamic, but by no means lack of social
    ties.

    On the other hand, when I look at societies with feudalistic traditions like rural
    balkans, here dominate static relationsships: clan, family, village, tradition, land.
    Also the mafia in south italy and albania. This corresponds to more risk-avoidance
    or change-avoidance but not necessarily to more collectivism. They are also partially
    individualistic because they stick to their individually accustomed interactions (an
    individually influenced collective) to them and avoid new interactions
    which are not yet individual to them. I mean, an individual can be member of a collective,
    but if this collective is individually accustomed (family), this individual is both
    individualist and collectivist at the same time, according to my definition. But
    according to Hofested's definition, it is not possible to decide how much individualistic
    or collectivistic this person would be.

    An Example:
    I observed a remarkable individual pride in south european men (Greeks, Turks) compared to
    northern europeans (e.g. Germans). They are prouder of their individual heritage (clannishness?),
    in contrast to North-westeners who are keen to abandon their individual family as soon as possible
    in favour of new peers (mind the teenagers ). This corresponds well to the stronger
    obedience of north-europeans to their state and to anonymous people whom they
    can not individually control or know (collectivistic behaviour?). OTH, I found that many
    south-europeans are reluctant to join a group before they are convinced that the group will
    respect them as an individual first (individualistic?). They demand personal respect
    beforehand (mind the vendetta, or spaniards demonstrating for government support ).
    The north europeans in turn often desperately try to be a group member, hoping that they will be
    respected one day (collectivistic?). A southerner would rather blame the collective for his
    individual misforune (collectivistic or individualistic?). This actually indicates that in the
    north-euro case the individual is even more pressed to serve society than in the south.
    For me that's collectivism. Depending on which level you look at, it can be more-or-less
    both individualistic or collectivistic.

    I wonder if the low social mobility in certain southern regions has to do with the
    longer history of farming. Land is static, passive and safe, but money is dynamic,
    active and risky (as hunting and gathering?). There is also currently a strong difference
    between rural and urban societies in the balkans, for instance in serbia.

    - I want to make clear, that the above is an exaggerated picture! South and north
    europenas are not remotely that extremely different.

    - Risk handling more directly explains economic situations. An entrepreneur is
    always a risk taker, no matter if collectivist or individualist.

    I hope my opinion has become more clear.
    Last edited by ElHorsto; 15-10-11 at 19:36. Reason: one sentence about Maciamo's categories added

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    Hi ElHorsto. I like your analysis, and find collectivism of North versus South somewhat different in nature too. I just think that none of us here was able accurately pinpoint the difference yet. Personally I'm looking for a simpler explanation, according to my motto "beauty in simplicity".

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    Quote Originally Posted by ElHorsto View Post
    Thanks, the definition is indeed my problem here. According to Hofstede:

    - individualism: loose ties/interactions between individuals
    - collectivism: strong ties/interactions between individuals

    My own huble definition:

    - individualism: loose or sparse ties/interactions between individuals
    - collectivism: strong or frequent ties/interactions between individuals


    Your refining approach by different categories is also good.

    But I don't like Hofested's definition because the terms "loose" and "strong" in our case
    in this thread rather correspond to "dynamic" and "static", resp. Consequently the north-west
    european peoples tend to be just more socially mobile or dynamic (risk taking), but this is
    not exactly individualism in my definition, just social entrepreneursship. They can make
    individual actions or decisions for a collectivist goal (socialize). According to Hofstede this
    is indeed fully individualistic as you say, because interactions are disrupted. According
    to my definition it is only partially individualistic because the interactions are in fact
    disrupted for the sake of new interactions. This fits well to the free-market
    capitalism with its is high social mobility/dynamic, but by no means lack of social
    ties.

    On the other hand, when I look at societies with feudalistic traditions like rural
    balkans, here dominate static relationsships: clan, family, village, tradition, land.
    Also the mafia in south italy and albania. This corresponds to more risk-avoidance
    or change-avoidance but not necessarily to more collectivism. They are also partially
    individualistic because they stick to their individually accustomed interactions (an
    individually influenced collective) to them and avoid new interactions
    which are not yet individual to them. I mean, an individual can be member of a collective,
    but if this collective is individually accustomed (family), this individual is both
    individualist and collectivist at the same time, according to my definition. But
    according to Hofested's definition, it is not possible to decide how much individualistic
    or collectivistic this person would be.

    An Example:
    I observed a remarkable individual pride in south european men (Greeks, Turks) compared to
    northern europeans (e.g. Germans). They are prouder of their individual heritage (clannishness?),
    in contrast to North-westeners who are keen to abandon their individual family as soon as possible
    in favour of new peers (mind the teenagers ). This corresponds well to the stronger
    obedience of north-europeans to their state and to anonymous people whom they
    can not individually control or know (collectivistic behaviour?). OTH, I found that many
    south-europeans are reluctant to join a group before they are convinced that the group will
    respect them as an individual first (individualistic?). They demand personal respect
    beforehand (mind the vendetta, or spaniards demonstrating for government support ).
    The north europeans in turn often desperately try to be a group member, hoping that they will be
    respected one day (collectivistic?). A southerner would rather blame the collective for his
    individual misforune (collectivistic or individualistic?). This actually indicates that in the
    north-euro case the individual is even more pressed to serve society than in the south.
    For me that's collectivism. Depending on which level you look at, it can be more-or-less
    both individualistic or collectivistic.

    I wonder if the low social mobility in certain southern regions has to do with the
    longer history of farming. Land is static, passive and safe, but money is dynamic,
    active and risky (as hunting and gathering?). There is also currently a strong difference
    between rural and urban societies in the balkans, for instance in serbia.

    - I want to make clear, that the above is an exaggerated picture! South and north
    europenas are not remotely that extremely different.

    - Risk handling more directly explains economic situations. An entrepreneur is
    always a risk taker, no matter if collectivist or individualist.

    I hope my opinion has become more clear.
    Exactly my thoughts I wasn't able to put my finger on!
    From this point of view I always regarded Germans as very obedient and collectivistic in comparison to South Europeans. Your examples are the same I had in mind.

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    When it comes to genetics the South-North division is completely outdated. You have for example Spaniards who are genetically closer to Germans than to Sicilians (Nelis et al.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mzungu mchagga View Post
    Exactly my thoughts I wasn't able to put my finger on!
    From this point of view I always regarded Germans as very obedient and collectivistic in comparison to South Europeans. Your examples are the same I had in mind.
    What about "sense of duty"? I don't mean, obedience, to do a job right because someone, like boss, told me too. I mean something more like "obedient to yourself". For example, if I plan to do maintenance around my house for a weekend, I can't rest, I can't stop till the plan is done. If the plan is interrupted I feel bad with uneasy feeling. If the plan and work is done, it feels great with this accomplishment. Nothing else but my internal feelings are forcing me to do and finish my job. Even if I hate the job. I can't explain it better than genetics. I was always like this, since I can remember, my mother is like this, but my father (who was supposed to teach me work ethics) is totally opposite.

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    Replies: 61
    Last Post: 14-10-12, 08:50
  2. Is social security to blame for high unemployment rates ?
    By Maciamo in forum European Economy
    Replies: 27
    Last Post: 08-11-11, 19:00
  3. Employment vs unemployment rates in the EU
    By Maciamo in forum European Economy
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 30-03-07, 10:15
  4. Replies: 6
    Last Post: 17-07-05, 09:11

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