Sunday, June 14, 2009

American exceptionalism, Part III: Continuing our examination of American values, we are putatively a competitive people. The World Values Survey (WVS) asked people from many countries which statement they agree with. The first is: "Competition is good. It stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas." The second is: "Competition is harmful. It brings the worst in people." They were scored a 1 if they completely agreed with the former and a 10 if they agreed 100% with the latter. If their feelings were mixed, they could give a number somewhere between the two extremes. I reversed the means by subtracting them from 10 so that high numbers reflect an approval of competition.

Mean score for belief in competition

Jordan 7.5
Ghana 7.3
Egypt 7.3
India 7.2
Iran 7.0
Romania 6.9
Mexico 6.8
Georgia 6.7
New Zealand 6.7
Sweden 6.6
Peru 6.6
Indonesia 6.6
Trinidad 6.6
Burkina Faso 6.6
USA 6.5
Bulgaria 6.5
China 6.5
Switzerland 6.4
Colombia 6.3
Mali 6.3
Canada 6.2
Australia 6.2
Slovenia 6.2
Taiwan 6.2
Vietnam 6.2
Hong Kong 6.2

World mean 6.2

South Africa 6.1
Ethiopia 6.1
Germany 6.1
Finland 6.0
South Korea 6.0
Morocco 6.0
Rwanda 6.0
Zambia 5.9
Russia 5.9
Great Britain 5.8
Brazil 5.8
Spain 5.8
Moldova 5.8
Cyprus 5.8
Turkey 5.8
Malaysia 5.8
Japan 5.7
Italy 5.6
Serbia 5.6
Andorra 5.6
Ukraine 5.4
Netherlands 5.3
Argentina 5.3
Thailand 5.2
Poland 5.1
Chile 5.1
France 5.0

Once again, America is well above average, but there are 14 countries that give competition a higher rating, and two of them are developed countries--Sweden and New Zealand. If we also consider the other two values we've looked at--a sense of autonomy and lack of class envy--Sweden and New Zealand score higher than the U.S. in two out of three cases. And if we use the criterion of scoring higher than America on two out of three attitudes, we would add the following countries to the list: Ghana, Indonesia, Trinidad, Georgia, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Jordan, and the most interesting to me--Mexico.

There might not be much of a correlation between values and system characteristics, but the results are interesting, nevertheless.

Next, I want to see if America has lost some of its "Americanism" since the WVS was first given in 1990.

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