Sunday, October 11, 2009

World Values Survey Results

Have you seen the results of the World Values Survey?

The existence of this data makes it easier to determine the correlation of values, and the institutions dependent on them, with development and (most importantly) happiness. It's a bit of a coordination game, that is, a chicken-and-egg question: how exactly would a person in rural Zimbabwe go about obtaining self-expressive secular/rationalist values?

I do find it curious that in measures of quality of life, transparency, etc. the ranking organizations tend to be in Scandinavia, and the countries that typically do the best are in (drum roll) Scandinavia. Have you also noticed that in intra-US QOL measures, the Upper Midwest seems to do amazingly well? As I recall the survey organization is in Madison. This of course is possible, and you could say that the better-educated, more democratic, and more concerned with human welfare is a country, the more likely it is to have such organizations. Assuming that self-expression and rationalism are the good ends of the two dimensions on the values survey, Northwest Europe wins out again - although the executive board of the WVS has members from the US, Germany, Turkey, Spain, and elsewhere.

Added later: I was looking at this chart again and specifically looking at the ex-communist boundary. That's another way of asking how much of an impact a communist government might have on a culture. I'm typically a hard sell when it comes to arguments that a government can change the underlying culture (or even work well with it - witness democracy in Iraq). It's hard to tell, because the ex-communist countries are geographically adjacent, although the fancy footwork boundary around China, Korea and Taiwan is interesting.

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