[VIEWPOINT]Social views linked to growth

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[VIEWPOINT]Social views linked to growth

Tolerance pays. This message is emerging from a growing body of evidence on public attitudes toward globalization. Could attitudinal changes contribute to improved economic performance in Korea?
The responses elicited in the Pew Global Attitudes Project in which 38,000 people in 44 countries were interviewed makes fascinating reading. Public support for globalization is the greatest in the small African country of Senegal with 90 percent of respondents indicating that it is a good thing, while opposition is greatest in Jordan, at 64 percent. Eighty-nine percent of Turks thought that local culture should be protected from foreign influences, while less than half of the French felt this way.
When asked whether they supported free markets, 95 percent of the Vietnamese interviewed responded affirmatively, with 98 percent favoring growing cross-border business ties. At the other end of the scale, only 48 percent of Jordanians approved of such commerce. Nearly two-thirds of Czech respondents were willing to see large inefficient factories close, but more than three-quarters of Indians surveyed opposed such moves. Attitudes toward international economic institutions ― the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization ― vary widely as well: five out of six people in the Ivory Coast, in West Africa, thought that the multinational institutions were a beneficial influence, while two out of three Argentines believe that they had a negative influence, perhaps with reason.
The Korean public’s attitude toward globalization in its most narrow economic manifestations is supportive, though Koreans are skeptical about its broader cultural implications.
Five out of six Koreans favor globalization and free markets. Support for expanding cross-border business ties is even more lopsided, with 90 percent approving.
Korean attitudes are less supportive of some of the specific manifestations of globalization ― international economic organizations are supported by 58 percent of respondents, with 26 percent opposed. Multinational corporations are accorded weaker support, 56 percent favoring them and 34 percent opposed. Koreans are evenly divided over whether inefficient factories should close.
Five out of six people here believe that Korean culture should be protected from foreign influence.
Across countries the patterns of these responses are statistically correlated with economic performance. That relationship is unsurprising in and of itself. What is intriguing is that the pattern of responses to these and other questions posed in the Pew survey are correlated with economic performance even when economic fundamentals such as the level of per capita income and inflation are taken into account. The responses seem to tell us something beyond what can be explained by economic fundamentals.
Perhaps most surprisingly, attitudes toward homosexuality are highly correlated with economically relevant phenomena like the ability to attract foreign investment and the level of sovereign bond ratings, even allowing for the influence of the conventional determinants. The cross-national divergence on this issue is enormous, with 83 percent of Czechs and Germans supporting the acceptance of homosexuality, more than 90 percent of the respondents in six countries opposing it, and three governments ― China, Egypt, and Tanzania ― not even permitting the question to be asked. In Korea, opinion tends toward disapproval: 25 percent of the public supports societal tolerance of homosexuality while 69 percent oppose.
The statistical correlation between tolerance of homosexuality and economic performance echoes similar results obtained previously for American cities, where the homosexual share of the population is associated with high-tech activity. The question is why?
In both the American and international data, there is a correlation between acceptance of homosexuality and other characteristics such as acceptance of immigrants, and the perceived need to protect traditional culture, which in turn are correlated with economic performance. It could be that attitudes toward homosexuality are part of a broader package of social attitudes toward difference and change. Such attitudes presumably affect the subjective risk assessments of prospective foreign investors.
One might think of an international “best practice” standard defined as the average of the most pro-globalization attitudes in each non-OECD region. For the question of free markets, for example, this score would be 73, the average of Lebanon, Venezuela, Ukraine, Nigeria, Vietnam, and Uzbekistan ― the countries with the most free market support among the public in each of their respective regions.
Popular attitudes have real effects on economic outcomes and in the case of Korea, it appears that there are real payoffs to attitudinal changes. The question for Korea is how greater tolerance can be fostered.

* The writer is a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics.

by Marcus Noland

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