Wednesday, January 24, 2024

A Tweet to Ponder: II

My previous post on Catholic economic under-performance in Prussia during the late 19th C got me thinking about confounding factors that could have influenced the disparity.  I mean it may have been possible that the Catholic situation may have come about because the Protestants in Prussia may have rigged the game against them. After all Catholic/Protestant relations were quite hostile for a long time and perhaps, if Catholics had been "left alone", they would have reached or exceeded economic parity.

The problem with this line of thinking is that there is a very easy argument to refute this with and that is the economic situation of the Jews.

Now, in 19C. Prussia, Catholics and Protestants disagreed on many things but one thing that they both seemed to agree on was antisemitism.   And while the antisemitism in Prussia was not the antisemitism of the Nazi party, hostility to the Jews was widespread and many in many higher bourgeoisie environments they were considered declassé and deliberately excluded from them.

The things is that none of these social disadvantages translated to a decline in economic performance. In fact it did the opposite. This paper deals with Germany as a whole but I think that the numbers would be fairly representative of Prussia:

In the early twentieth century, a dense corporate network was created among the large German corporations ("Germany Inc."). About 16% of the members of this corporate network were of Jewish background. At the center of the network (big linkers) about 25% were Jewish. The percentage of Jews in the general population was less than 1% in 1914. [ED]What comparative advantages did the Jewish minority enjoy that enabled them to succeed in the competition for leading positions in the German economy? Three hypotheses are tested: (1) The Jewish economic elite had a better education compared to the non-Jewish members of the network (human capital). (2) Jewish members had a central position in the corporate network, because many of them were engaged in finance and banking. (3) Jewish members created a network of their own that was separate from the overarching corporate network (social capital). The density of this Jewish network was higher than that of the non-Jewish economic elite (embeddedness). Our data do not support any of these hypotheses. The observed correlation between Jewish background and economic success cannot be explained by a higher level of education, a higher level of social capital, or a higher proportion of Jewish managers engaged in (private) banking.
In a footnote in the article, Weber himself is cited with data from the late 19th C which illustrates the extent of disparity among faiths:   

Average capital tax per 1000 persons of each denomination for 1895: Protestants:954,900 Mark; Catholics 589,800 Mark; Jews: 4 Million Mark.
If the economic field was "rigged" against everyone who wasn't Protestant then the Jews had found a way to bypass the system.

The point of this is if we control for economic performance within one country--where we can eliminate the confounding variable of different national economic policy--and religious bias as well, we see that religious differences really do matter when it comes to economic performance.

Finally, its not as if Catholics at the time weren't aware of their economic status. From the Catholic Encylopaedia of 1907.
One important consequence of the Kulturkampf was the earnest endeavour of the Catholics to obtain a greater influence in national and municipal affairs; how weak they formerly were in both respects was clear to them only after the great conflict had begun. These efforts took the name of the Paritätsbewegung, i.e., a struggle for equality of civil recognition. In turn the discussions awakened and fed by this movement soon led to a vigorous self-questioning among the Catholic masses as to the fact of, and the reasons for, their backwardness in academic, literary, and artistic life, also in the large field of economic activities (industry, commerce, etc.). On the other hand, the reconciliation between Church and State made it possible for the Catholics of Germany to participate more earnestly than hitherto in the public life of the Fatherland, in illustration of which we may point to the notable contributions of the Centre party. (1896-1904) to the solution of the great imperial problems of that period.
Now the reason why economic performance matters is because of the relationship of economic power to modernity.  If we consider modernity as being about the material conditions of existence, then those who control the provision of these goods and services will in fact control modernity. The people who control the media will control what is presented on it. The people who invest in technology and infrastructure will control what gets built and where. The people in government will regulate all of it.

The contention of this blog is that the Protestant world was by and large the principal shaper of material world of modernity until about the early 1970's, the Catholic world lived in its shadows and was also shaped by it, and it is its collapse that has ushered in the Negative World.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

A Tweet to Ponder

The other day this interesting tweet popped into my feed and I think it encapsulates some of the thoughts I have with regard to the relationship with Protestantism, Christianity and modernity.

It's no mean feat to have achieved a literacy rate approaching 100% and an infant mortality rate roughly a third of a city--with all its institutions--that has been in place that two millennia. It's all the more the impressive considering the it was a wilderness sixty years prior. 

I had a brief look today at the religious history of Toledo, Ohio and from what I could glean it would appears that Catholicism established the first roots there but it was displaced very early on by waves of Protestant immigrants who were hostile to it. Essentially Toledo was a Protestant dominated town.

Toledo Spain was one of the cultural centers of Catholicism and it's interesting to see that nearly two millenia of learning and culture did not confer upon it any advantage on the issue of infant mortality compared to some backwater in the New World. Now the metric of infant mortality is not simply about how many kids live past a certain age, it also is a metric of paternal misery and sorrow. No matter how you cut it, an improved infant mortality rate is a GOOD thing and less dead children usually means happier parents and siblings with all the subsequent second and third order benefits that accrue. Prosperity doesn't just mean wealth, but allows for better nutrition, housing which leads to less disease and misery.

The issue here is why wasn't Toledo, Spain--with its head-start in learning and culture--able to translate that into practical improvements with regard to the day to day life of its citizens.

It's this blog's contention that it was the Catholic/Protestant divide that explains a lot of the performance differential.

Since my blogging has been light over the past year I thought I would just use this post to recap some of the ideas I want to propose. Namely:

1) That the Catholic world while originating modernity was unable to implement it.
2) The Protestant world while initially rejecting modernity was able to harness it and control it till the sixties.
3) The theological changes within Protestantism, especially in the late 19th Century set into train events that would undermine it,  so that by the Mid 20th C, mainline Protestantism--the Protestantism that was embraced by the senior managerial class who were the captains of modernity--had repudiated many of its original moral and theological beliefs.
4) The void left by this collapse was filled by a secular humanism unmoored from any fixed moral principle.
5) Catholicism has been peripheral to this turn of events.
6) The collapse of the faith in all of the West has come about from a "de-gracing" of it.
7) Since Grace is the foundation of Faith, any theological, philosophical,  political or cultural movement that is not calibrated to the Will of the Christian God will fail.