Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hell drives economic growth and the dangers of doing a Bernie Villegas

Well it seems that religious belief especially in a place for the baddies, we call hell, sheol or infierno is somewhat correlated with economic growth according to this study. I'm sure the researchers used some sort of meta-analysis (I haven't seen the academic paper) in their conclusion that Protestant economies were about 35 years ahead of Catholic economies in starting the Industrial Revolution. Well it isn't only a belief in hell, but also a belief in heaven, albeit it has less effect on economic growth.

But these trends are true only for developing economies. Protestant belief is not really the reason why many people are more entrepreneurial, but their Sola Scriptura theology requires that Protestants be literate in the Bible, which as all we know, is sometimes hard to figure out. Protestants read more than Catholics it seems.

Now it also seems that hell is Darwinian! Belief in hell that is. People who really believe in hell tend to be more honest and cheat less and this supports the theory of why altruism evolved. Now a less corrupt society is likely to be more economically progressive. Ask all the 2010 presidentiables. That is THE MANTRA they spout.

The researchers conclude in the best secular way that mass literacy was the reason why Protestant economies grew. Literacy promotion is a consequence of Sola Scripture and was done through mass education. And there are heaps of studies supporting the idea that the longer you are in school, the less fecund you will be. Education is the best CONTRACEPTIVE and the Catholic Church won't be miffed with that. However there is a danger if.....

Some people look at the whole idea as an oversimplification. And this is shown in this PDI article on the possibility of a demographic winter in the Philippines. Population pyramids are graphical models of a natural population distribution. We cannot infer more than what the models can provide. Here is the danger when a Doctor of Sacred Theology does a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics. The Reverend Dr is doing a Bernie Villegas here. As we have seen earlier, economies grow or crash due a multitude of factors, some of them may be autocorrelative (like belief in hell which is autocorrelated with a belief in heaven) some quite random but follow a Poisson probability distribution (typhoon related disasters, monsoon flooding) and some quite deterministic.

The Reverend Father who did the study writes that total fertility rate (TFR) would decline below replacement levels even without the Reproductive Health Bill. This is likely a consequence of a growing economy and increasing opportunities for education which makes people more mobile in their search for a way of making a living. Thus the thesis that the RH bill will drive down TFR is not correct for greater access to education for girls is a better correlate for fertility decline (although in a few societies this trend is not that clear). The only way we can raise TFR it seems (if are simplistic) is to do a Taliban and ban girls from going to school! No sane Roman Catholic would ever contemplate that as a population policy. It is estimated that one year of girls' schooling can reduce TFR by 0.26 births.

I support the Reverend Father's point in strengthening the family. The family is a social-biological unit that no doubt confers evolutionary fitness.

The Philippine Catholic Church can threaten hell (which can drive economic growth!) or dance with the "Devil" of the RH (which promises "free, informed and non-coercive choice" excluding abortion) and promote education in its core beliefs (which is a Constitutional right). I have always maintained that one of the biggest failures of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in the Philippines is that many Catholics are unchurched (and their number is growing) while priests and bishops dance with the devil called Politics . Well we know where that leads us. Perhaps we should be Protestant in some of the particulars and Catholic in the universals.

Ben Vallejo

PS: Wags have told me that the Philippines is in a hell of politicians' making and yet our economy barely grows!

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