Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Cultural Traits and Work Ethic: Human Capital Matters

Posted by M. C. on May 7, 2022

Economic growth depends upon human capital development, which depends upon things like cultural views toward work and just plain showing up on time.

Countries are in an economic arms race to surpass competitors by accelerating levels of human capital. It is crucial that schools and universities not only graduate students with relevant certificates but also people with the appropriate skills to make a useful contribution to the knowledge economy. The failure of employees to maximize value by applying their skills will result in businesses becoming saddled with liabilities because an inefficient employee is an expense.

Indeed, human capital is a key ingredient for achieving growth, but we should appreciate that human capital is conduced by an intricate interplay of social traits. Being a student entails challenges of completing difficult assignments and graduating on time, so naturally, there is a selection for people who are higher in conscientiousness and patience. Possessing the potential to succeed in school and business is irrelevant when a work ethic is nonexistent.

Primarily because life is challenging, work ethic builds resilience; hence people who are easily perturbed by difficulties will easily quit and never actualize their potential. In school and in business, we are compelled to navigate hostile environments by managing complicated personalities. Without grit, entrepreneurs are bound to fail, since on the path to success they will encounter naysayers and bureaucrats aiming to derail their progress. If prospective entrepreneurs were intimidated by regulations, then we would not be enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Likewise, students contend with arrogant lecturers, incompetent peers, and mindless administrators. But when success is the only option, one must literally overcome the storm. People with laser focus are undaunted by the obstacles because they can conceptualize the long-term outcomes of their labor. On the other hand, since traits that induce performance are not equally distributed, obviously some people will be deficient in social skills that enable success.

Another harrowing reality is that due to the unequal distribution of success-inducing traits, some characteristics are more abundant in certain countries relative to others. East AsiansAmericans, and Germans are known for an insane work ethic that’s not replicated in most places. Although there is a resurgence of interest in the relationship between culture and economic development, economists rarely identify culture as a direct barrier to the acquisition of human capital.

Researchers have observed differences in how people value time by classifying countries as having either a clock culture or an event culture. In the latter, people are unlikely to place a premium on time, whereas in the former, there is greater reverence for time rather than celebrating the event. Event cultures are usually less productive than time cultures, since time cultures minimize waste by using time efficiently. 

The case of Jamaica adroitly illustrates how culture retards development. For instance, in Jamaica there is so little respect for time that people have created the concept of Jamaican time, thereby indicating that attendants should budget for tardiness.

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One Response to “Cultural Traits and Work Ethic: Human Capital Matters”

  1. What a load of horse shit. You know what motivates folks of all kinds? Not being treated like a commodity. Some of the most diligent, resourceful, creative, hard-working folk I’ve met, around the world, would never work as hard for a corporation as they would for their own kin, and that’s exactly how it should be.

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