Saturday, August 22, 2009

More on trust: As a follow-up to the last post, I wondered about the level of trust in Asian and Muslim countries. Based on World Values Survey data, here are the percent who say that people can generally be trusted:

Percent who say you can trust people

World 29.6

Iran 65.3
Saudi Arabia 53.0
Indonesia 51.6
Iraq 47.6
Egypt 37.9
Pakistan 27.9
Morocco 23.5
Bangladesh 22.2
Azerbaijan 20.5
Turkey 12.6
Algeria 11.2

China 55.2
Japan 42.9
Taiwan 38.2
Vietnam 41.1
India 37.9
South Korea 32.1
Philippines 7.0

Muslim countries are all over the place--they are about as diverse as the whole sample of countries. Numbers like that in Iraq surprise me, given what Steve Sailer has written about how consanguinity in Muslim countries undermines trust beyond the family.

India is the trusting one among South Asian countries. The Phillipines is the exception in Southeast Asia, and East Asia is trusting.


  1. Anonymous10:26 AM

    I´m wary of the utility of these self-reported cultural surveys, because in many cases cultural values dictate what respondents say. Often people will say what is EXPECTED of them to say and not something that truly reflects what´s goin on.

    I lived in China for a period and NO ONE trusts anyone, believe me. Nor do they have reason to. It is - at least in its current incarnation - one of the most backstabbing countries on the planet. Furthermore, the Chinese have a tradition that places a high value on cunning and deceit to achieve ones goals - ask anyone who has spent time in ANY Chinese speaking country. This had very deep roots in Chinese culture and shows up everywhere (Sun Tzu is a treatise on deception and is perhaps the most widely admired Chinese classic). People admire success that comes from cunning and deceit.

    To do justice to the Chinese, there are other straings in their moral philosophy as well which emphasize honesty and justice, etc, but one cannot ignore the huge cultural role the admiration of deceit plays in Chinese life.

    At the same time the Chinese value "harmony" so people are SUPPOSED to trust each other, even if everyone really knows beneath the surface it´s all nonesense.

    A culture will OFTEN pay lip service to values that it knows it conspicously lacks. The "public image" that a culture presents to the world (and itself) may just be a gloss over a very different cultural reality just below the official creed and that represents much more faithully the true character of the society.

    So yeah, I´m pretty suspicious of how much trust we can attribute to these "surveys".

    1. tharpa12:49 PM

      Yes, I'm suspect of anything that relies on self-reporting. In addition there are subtle differences in the connotations of words between languages.

      How sure are we that words like "generally" and "trust" are exactly the same between languages? What if one culture thinks of generally as being 51%, whereas another thinks of its version of the word as being 90%?

  2. The Japanese are probably the most trustworthy people on a variety of measures -- low crime, high honesty if you drop your wallet on the street, businesses are oriented toward long term success rather than making a quick killing -- but the Japanese say they are less trusting than the Iraqis.

    Similarly, Turkey comes out as very untrusting, but it's a pretty safe place to walk around at night. I probably wouldn't trust a Turkish businessman's promise to deliver six sigma quality as much as I'd trust a Japanese or German businessman's, but Turks seem pretty trustworthy in terms of not doing clearly bad things to you.

    I think something is getting lost in translation.

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