Can Culture Explain the Economic Gap in Rich and Poor Countries?

Can Culture Explain the Economic Gap in Rich and Poor Countries?


At a fundraiser in Israel on Monday, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney attributed cultural values to explain the economic gap between poor and rich countries including Israel and Palestine, and Mexico and the United States.

With this statement, Romney showed too much ignorance for a man who wants to be the President of a great nation. If his statement is accurate, he should look up to Canadian culture, where only one in 10 Canadians are poor compared to one in six Americans. Would he ever agree that Canada’s culture is superior to the US?

To measure the economic success of Israel and Palestine, Gov. Romney used GDP per capita figures. To his knowledge, there are 10 countries with a higher GDP per capita than the U.S. including two Muslim cultures: Qatar and Brunei, and two Asian: Hong Kong and Singapore. Would he agree that there is something better in Arab or Asian cultures that make those countries better off than his home country?

His statements on the economic gap between Israel and Palestine certainly reflect his ignorance on foreign affairs and world events. As wealthy as he is, he is not a well-traveled man. In his youth, he spent time as a Mormon missionary in France and learned the language, but his most recent vacation was in the exotic and remote New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. Nothing wrong with promoting domestic tourism, but as a presumptive candidate to the highest office in the U.S. with a strong agenda in job creation, he would have better started his first tour in Canada, China, or Mexico, the three largest trading partners for the U.S.

Romney’s statement also reflects something else: Mexico remains the most mysterious and unknown country for most Americans, including many of its politicians. It does not matter that Romney’s father was born in Mexico; neither that he still has cousins and uncles living south of the border. Romney has only a vague idea of the country that sends the largest immigrant population to the U.S. and trades one billion dollars every day along a 2,000-mile shared border.