Sunday, January 12, 2003


I have had a few responses to my critique of Orrin Judd's claim that American capitalism functions so well because of the civility and trust engendered by the wide influence of Christianity in the USA.

I first reproduce below one of the supportive emails. Jason Soon is responding to my mention of the fact that the Japanese outperform the USA in many ways despite being superstitious polytheists rather than Christians.

If I may be so bold as to generalise, I think we East Asians are probably the most irreligious people on the face of the earth. Among my Asian Australian friends I'd say close to 99% of them are agnostic or atheist.

I think it's unfair to regard Shintoism as 'primitive religious practice' - I doubt that the Japanese take the content of the religion (as opposed to the obligations to abide by its rituals once in a while) terribly seriously.

A similar attitude pervades my family (even among the older generation) regarding the elaborate Taoist Buddhist rituals they put on in Malaysia every time someone passes on - going through the whole thing was more like a mark of respect for the deceased.

We East Asians have a very non-metaphyical but pragmatic Hayekian reverence for ritual and tradition. Even among those genuinely superstitious, I suspect it's all very utilitarian - they probably think 'not doing this ritual saves you a bit of a hassle, doing it might bring you some benefits if true so what have you got to lose' (all very Pascalian).

Interestingly, you'll find the greatest religosity in Asia are among those of Malay descent - this includes of course the strongly Catholic Fillipinos.

One should also perhaps note that American blacks hardly exemplify the good influence of Christianity. There are probably few groups in the USA who are more supportive of "that old-time religion" than American blacks but their extraordinarily high rate of black-on-black homicide plus their chronically low level of economic achievement do not exactly show high levels of civility or prosperity -- which the Christianity-explains-all theory requires.

So non-Christian Asians do very well and Christian blacks do very poorly. Where does that leave the central role of Christianity in producing civility and prosperity?

I have also had an email that submits a list of things that I would appear to have overlooked in my observations so far. See below:

1. Can you explain the state of society in Japan prior to WW2 via the metrics you state above (via the influences of Buddhism and Shinto)?

2. What about the impact that the Allied "Christian" response had on modern day Japan in assisting to rebuild Japanese society after the war?

3. Care to be a Korean in Japan ? Real Christians have racism, yes but they also admit it and try to overcome it .... and they are far more inclusive of all cultures ... Japan historically has been closed and still is.

4. Have you taken the time to research any early Christian European influences on Australia's culture development from it's days as a penal colony.

5. Are you arguing that there is no historical Christian influences that formed Western culture prior to the industrial age ? Ever consider it was Christian influences that gave birth to the industrial age!! Can you name any followers of another world religion that also developed high-level industrial & rational capabilities of the West ?? Why not?

6. Have you ever studied the development of the concept of individual rights throughout history and how Christianity provide the catalyst for such thought ? ....even though today many of these concepts are still alien to many cultures throughout the world?

I will reply point by point:

Points 1, 2 and 5:
I am NOT arguing about the origins of modern day western civilization. To me the origins are clearly Protestant -- from Lutheran Germany to Anglican England. What I DID argue is that the procedures developed in the Protestant countries are highly transferrable and hence need no substrate of Christianity to function well.

Point 3
Japanese society has always been very civil -- excessively so, some would argue. but that does not insulate them from racism. Racism is universal and Hitler�s good Catholic upbringing may be noted. And Germany is, after all, the very home of the Protestant reformation.

Point 4
There were of course efforts made to instill Christian principles into Australia�s convict settlers but stonier ground for the seed to fall upon would be hard to imagine.

Point 6
I have argued at some length elsewhere (See around the middle of the article) that the Anglo-Saxon passion for individual liberties is primarily of pagan German origin. Even a Christian as rebellious as Luther still preached submission to the �Obrigkeiten� (secular superior authorities). He quoted Romans 13:1 to that effect: �The powers that be are ordained by God�.



The last two or three days were good for this blog: Two links from Instapundit on two different subjects and (briefly) no. 11 on Blogdex (out of about 40,000 blogs).



China Hand is an old "petrolhead" (car-lover) from way back so he has just written about the current motor vehicle scene in China.

The Wicked one reports that Google is nowhere nearly as good as people think it is.

Michael Darby has a post which points out how useful Turkey (the country, not the bird) could be for us and also a post about how lots of little taxes and "levies" add up.

IQ & PC excerpts a statistical study which shows how rare among blacks are the abilities needed for affirmative action to succeed.


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