[FOUNTAIN]Trust, morals can also help the economy

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[FOUNTAIN]Trust, morals can also help the economy

A decade ago, Professor Francis Fukuyama of Johns Hopkins University published “Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity.” In the book, he argued that trust between members of a society supported economic prosperity. High levels of trust are social capital that can strengthen the competitiveness of a country. As the level of trust in a society rises, various social costs would fall and the efficiency would improve.
Mr. Fukuyama applied this to corporate development. He explained that in societies with high levels of trust, smaller, family-oriented companies could grow into industry giants. Meanwhile, if trusting relationships are limited to the boundary of relatives, family-oriented companies could not grow big.
Mr. Fukuyama evaluated China, France, Italy and South Korea as “familistic societies” with low levels of trust among members of society. He was especially negative about the Chinese. While the Chinese had tight bonds within families, they did not trust others. Therefore, family-oriented management was characteristic in companies owned by ethnic Chinese.
In the eyes of Mr. Fukuyama, Korea was little better than China. He pointed that the “Confucian virtue of filial piety” was limited to the boundary of families and did not contribute to trust in society. As a result, the distinction between management and ownership was often vague and patriarchal, limiting the growth of the Korean economy. This was how Korea was evaluated 10 years ago.
If Mr. Fukuyama published a revised edition, how would he evaluate today’s Korea? Has the trust level in Korea improved?
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that he would give Korea any better score. Today, a series of cheating scams and fabrication of school grades has occurred. Parents will do anything for their kids, and some schools have lost morals. Students have abandoned their values to get into a better school, and the rules and regulations are meaningless.
The public insists that the exams should be proctored strictly, and punishments should be strengthened. They are calling to reform the college admission system. It might be the social cost of low levels of trust in our society regarding rules and regulations. Because the cost has become too large, it makes us nervous that the confidence in the future of Korean society is at risk.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is head of the family affairs team at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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