Richesse et culture des nations

Les économistes modernes considèrent Adam Smith comme un prophète, à l’instar des régimes communistes qui déifiaient autrefois Karl Marx. Le principe essentiel qu’ils attribuent à Smith – à savoir que des mesures d’incitation efficaces, quelle que soit la culture, produisent de bons résultats – est devenu le grand commandement économique. Il s’agit pourtant d’une interprétation erronée de l’histoire (et probablement des écrits de Smith).

La croissance moderne n’est pas due à de meilleures motivations, mais à la création d’une nouvelle culture économique dans des sociétés comme celles de l’Angleterre et de l’Ecosse. Pour stimuler la croissance des sociétés pauvres, il est nécessaire de changer les cultures, pas seulement leurs institutions et leurs avantages, et de faire mieux connaître aux individus de ces sociétés la vie dans les économies avancées.

Malgré la croyance quasi universelle des économistes selon laquelle les mesures d’incitation sont primordiales, trois caractéristiques de l’histoire mondiale témoignent de l’importance de la culture.

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