In The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor, economic historian David S. Landes maintains that the reasons for different development rates are primarily cultural. While Landes admits that tropical regions like sub-Saharan Africa were bound to develop more slowly than temperate areas because climate conditions prevent productivity during summer months, he still puts much of the responsibility for instigating development on cultural factors.
Landes claims that in the year 1000, no one would have predicted that Europe would dominate the world 500 years later. But starting in the 1500s, the Protestant form of Christianity promoted both literacy and concern for conservation of time, and both of these attributes led to higher productivity in societies such as Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and, later, the United States. Likewise, in China and Japan, Buddhist beliefs emphasized labor and thrift, which led to faster social and economic development (Landes, 1999).
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