Saturday, June 2, 2012

It's the Culture, Stupid

Victor Davis Hanson has a nifty--and quick--way of discerning whether a country is on the ball or a financial basket case. He will ask:
Do average passersby throw down or pick up litter? After a minor fender-bender, do drivers politely exchange information, or do they scream and yell with wild gesticulations? Is honking constant or sporadic? Are crosswalks sacrosanct? Do restaurant dinners usually start or wind down at 9 P.M.? Can you drink tap water, or should you avoid it? Do you mostly pay what the price tag says, or are you expected to pay in untaxed cash and then haggle over the unstated cost? Are construction sites clearly marked and fenced to protect pedestrians, or do you risk walking into an open pit or getting stabbed by exposed rebar?
To put these crude stereotypes more abstractly, is civil society mostly moderate, predicated on the rule of law, and meritocratic — or is it characterized by self-indulgence, cynicism, and tribalism?
The answers to these questions do not hinge on race, money, or natural wealth, but they do involve culture and the way average people predictably live minute by minute. Again, these national habits and traditions accrued over centuries, and as much as politics or economics, they explain in part why Bonn is not Athens, and Zurich is not Naples, or for that matter why Cairo is unlike Tel Aviv or why Mexico City differs from Toronto.
I bet Mexico City has better burritos, though.

Their's are actually pretty good for "gringo" burritos

No comments: