coromandal


strange place

From the Economist, 2003:

The usefulness of dividing the broad subject of “values” in this way can be seen by plotting countries on a chart whose axes are the two spectrums. The chart alongside (click to enlarge it) shows how the countries group: as you would expect, poor countries, with low self-expression and high levels of traditionalism, are at the bottom left, richer Europeans to the top right.

But America’s position is odd. On the quality-of-life axis, it is like Europe: a little more “self-expressive” than Catholic countries, such as France and Italy, a little less so than Protestant ones such as Holland or Sweden. This is more than a matter of individual preference. The “quality of life” axis is the one most closely associated with political and economic freedoms. So Mr Bush is right when he claims that Americans and European share common values of democracy and freedom and that these have broad implications because, at root, alliances are built on such common interests.

But now look at America’s position on the traditional-secular axis. It is far more traditional than any west European country except Ireland. It is more traditional than any place at all in central or Eastern Europe. America is near the bottom-right corner of the chart, a strange mix of tradition and self-expression.

Americans are the most patriotic people in the survey: 72% say they are very proud of their country (and this bit of the poll was taken before September 2001). That puts America in the same category as India and Turkey. The survey reckons religious attitudes are the single most important component of traditionalism. On that score, Americans are closer to Nigerians and Turks than Germans or Swedes.

World Values Survey, University of Michigan, Living with a superpower, Economist, 2003

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