2012 September 09 Sunday
Razib Khan On Italy's Large Differences In Regional Prosperity

Razib Khan has a noteworthy post up about the huge gap in economic prosperity in Italy between the prosperous north and the much less prosperous south. That might be new news for some of you. But after hearing some Northern Italians complain about the south some years back I took an interest in the Northern League's resentment of the parasitic south and these results fit with the stereotypes heard from northern Italians. Yes, stereotypes are often accurate.

What I find most surprising: northern Italy, western Austria, and southern Germany are a cluster of wealth. That cluster is wealthier than eastern Austria (which contains Vienna) and and is even more prosperous than even the western part of northern Germany. I did not expect that.

See this Google map of Europe Switch between that map and Razib's first map to see how the prosperity aligns with regions of countries.

What causes these differences? Genetics? Social capital? Propinquity? The prosperity zone cuts across national boundaries and language zones.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 September 09 02:00 PM  Culture Compared

L. Horrigan said at September 9, 2012 5:04 PM:

"What causes these differences?"

Well, generally speaking, I think it really has to do with religion and dogma. In Europe and in the Americas very religious societies, specially Catholic societies seem to do a lot and I mean A LOT worse. Compare Irland vs England, Latin America vs North America, Poland vs Germany, Spain vs France, Southern Italy vs Northern Italy or Switzerland. And I'm still not getting into the really fanatic North African and Middle East Muslim countries vs Europe, or say India vs Russia or China.

Religious belief empties a person's will to improve life while they're on Earth. Dogmatics and Full-of-faithers invest in an "afterlife", in what comes after life. They therefore tend to despise life and diminish its importance.

Randall Parker said at September 9, 2012 7:32 PM:

L. Horrigan,

Northern Italy is Catholic. Southern Germany is far more Catholic than northern Germany. Yet southern Germany does better than northern Germany. Look again at the map. Try again.

Joe said at September 9, 2012 9:55 PM:

It seems to align with the former hapsburg empire. Razib had a post about that a few years back.

Joe said at September 10, 2012 4:47 AM:

I think this area is associated with many small, high skilled enterprises. I know in italy this is the case, the northeast model.

Billy said at September 10, 2012 2:39 PM:

I think Horrigan's got what seems to be a rule right even if there could be one or two exceptions that Randall's found under the microscope.

Randall's talking about Northern Ireland which is a small part of the U.K. who happens to be attached to the rest of ultra-catholic Ireland and not to the rest of the U.K. Germany and Italy are one country respectively where people can freely move about and interact, so that's a little more difficult to prove right or wrong.

Randall, I think Horrigan's was talking about the big global picture. He/She was talking about continents and set more examples than your exceptions. I think Horrigan's worth further consideration cause there seems to be a pattern, though not a Law of Physics.

Steve Sailer said at September 11, 2012 4:22 AM:

It's been a rich area for a long time, although the Alps got in the way. Maybe this Greater Switzerland had the right culture all along, but was held back by difficulty of trade across the Alps, but drilling tunnels has made prosperity possible.

Joe said at September 11, 2012 9:47 AM:

Steve, any idea what the "right culture" was? Or any evidence that it actually did move east recently?

Mirco Romanato said at September 13, 2012 5:33 PM:

A part of the right culture was commerce.
The North Italy was wealthy from the time of the Roman Empire before taxation killed it.
Then, after the 1.000, the commerce restarted in a big way and from Venice, Pisa, Florence, Genoa started a flux of goods from the Mediterranean to the Central/Western Europe, the Baltic and England.
The industry of paper, eyeglasses flourished there a couple of centuries after.
What made this possible was the influx of the Catholic Church diminishing the power of the Holy Roman Empire.
A lot of war there, a lot of fragmented Commons banded together against the Emperor and kicked him and his troops out.
The social structure prevented the formation of a large political power. Many middle or small statelets, some republics, some principates. All too little to be able to impose their will on the people. A lot of strife inside, but the commerce and industry prospered because they could not afford to lose their productive base. Without abundant natural resources people needed to work hard and smart.
This become so ingrained int he mental structure I would bet is stored in the DNA somewhere.

Now, the government from the 60-70 until now have enlarged the interference in the economy so much people find no reason to work hard or just work. From the North East many are moving to Romania and elsewhere, not to find a job, but to move their enterprises where they are allowed to do business.

Brendon Carr said at September 13, 2012 9:36 PM:

I can tell you that Bavarians (Southern Germans) and Tyrolians (Western Austrians) are some real sticklers for social propriety and contractual fidelity. I don't know about the Lombards, but Bavarians make for really good business partners.

Joe said at September 14, 2012 10:59 PM:

Have to disagree about the bavarians. I was in europe for the first time a few months ago and munich was by far the worst city I went to for people trying to cheat you. Big surprise for me, after no problems in spain and portugal.

patrick said at September 16, 2012 10:09 PM:

Eastern Austria is part of east-central Europe rather than west-central Europe; it's close to the Balkans and the 16th-17th century Habsburg-Ottoman frontier.
The region of south Germany, North Italy and western Austria corresponds to the Alpine passes and a major north-south trade route through Europe.

James said at February 16, 2013 10:26 PM:

The reason is IQ, and behind that, the Hajnal Line:


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