Culture cannot be ignored.

Some say the GWOT – the terror situation – is a culture war. Many worry about the decline of Western Culture and its manifest destiny that has created unprecedented global wealth and freedom. There are countries in Africa looking fondly back at colonial days when there was civic structure and prosperity that is missing today. In Iraq and Afghanistan there is much debate about cultures of corruption and tribal conflict that inhibit the social welfare of the countries.

These are issues of values and how they are reflected in behavior averaged over a large, a national sized, social group. They are intangible. That means difficult to measure, difficult to train, difficult to learn. There is a tendency to set them aside for more tangible concepts that can be easily written down for training or selling. But there are studies that indicate that the easy approach is insufficient.

The “major conclusion” of the study is that “mere dissemination of scientifically sound information is not by itself sufficient to overcome the divisive tendencies of cultural cognition.” With regard to nanotechnology, it “could go the route of nuclear power and other controversial technologies, becoming a focal point of culturally infused political conflict.” [Reason Online. June 12, 2007 Ronald Bailey. More Information Confirms What You Already Know. Study says values win over facts when it comes to tech risks]

This may be why there is such a correlation between environmental activists and political causes related to science and technology. A Nobel prize winning economist described the same values basis in his field and how it is often left out of theories and models in trying to understand growth and development of nations.

Mainstream economics assumes that any policy can be implemented anywhere at any time. In contrast, North sees economic behavior as anchored by institutions, which in turn are anchored by beliefs within the culture. [TCS Daily,Arnold Kling, Due North]

There are several clearly identified values that many believe are fundamental to personal freedom and economic development and liberty. One is the concept of private property rights. Another is the suppression of corruption. A third is evidence based decision making. All of these go against the ‘natural grain’ of individual existence. They are learned things. They are often difficult to learn things (see Cromer, Uncommon Sense). As such, they cannot go unattended. They require nurturing. They require weeding. If we do not take care of these things we will forfeit the freedoms and the liberties they provide us.

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