L’Observatoire des religions

Religion and International Trade

Estimating the Institutional and Network Effect of religious Cultures on International Trade,

samedi 3 mai 2008 par Joshua J. Lewer and Hendrik Van den Berg

Economists have increasingly emphasized the rôle of institutions in shaping économic activity. Among the many studies on institutions, however, there has been relatively little resarch on the économic rôle of religion in modefrn societies or in recent episodes of économic growth and change. This lack of research is suprising because religious practices, traditions, and philosophies are important components of national cultures that shape institutions. Religious cultures are clearly legitimate subjects for scientific study. This paper contributes to the research on the économic impact of religious cultures and religious institutions by examining the empirical relationship between religious cultures and international trade.

Discussion of the results

Only two religions, Buddhism and Judaïsme, have positive direct and indirect institutional effects as welle as trade-enhancing network effects. That Buddhism is so positively and consistently correlated with international trade would not surprise Lal (1998), who argues that the examples of Japan after World War II, and China, India, and many other Asian economies more recently, prove that rapid économic growth can be achieved in non-Western societies.
Judaïsm’s positive network effect suggests that Jewish traders may still form implicit networks, that expand international trade , not unlike the Jewish Maghribi traders 1,000 years ago described by Greif (1989, 1993).
The result that the Hindu culture does not generate any noticeable network effect is surprising given the Hindu Diaspora throughout Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Perhaps the mixed results are driven by the remnants of the Hindu culture’s divisive catse system, or, aus Uppal (1986) and Eisenstadt (1968) note, the culture’s lack of a single unifying writtent doctrine.
It is difficult to explain why Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Catholicism, and Protestantism, the three Christian religions in our sample, do not provide strong direct institutional support of international trade. The three Christian religions cultures have positive indirect effects on trade through their in fluence of other institutions that enhance bilateral trade , which may be a very important contribution by those religions in that part of the world where seculairsm and individualism are also strong cultural traditions. This finding that, indirectly, Protestantism is likely to have inspired other institutions that encourage international trade is supportive of Weber’s (1905) hypothesis that Protestantism is instrumental in the growth of capitalist institutions.
Among the authors who have addressed Roman Catholicism’s direct économic incentives , Stulz and Williamson (2001) report that « Catholic countries protect the right of creditors less than other countries... ». Blum and Dudlet (2001) and McCleary (2002), argue that contactual defaults are more common in Roman Catholic counytriues because the Catholic sacralent of penance permits people to obtain pardons for their sins at any time and thus lowers the « cost » of violating a contarctual agreement.
Islam’s negative network effect is surprising. Unfortunately, the literature on the économic implications of Islam, such as Kuran (1995, 1997, 2004), Lal (1998), Nafissi (1998), and Noland (2003), provides no consistent explanation for why Islamic trade networks provide no consistent explanation for why Islamic trade network do not expand total trade. Perhaps Islamic networks are specially exclusive. [...]
Confucianism’s positive network effect confirms Rauch and Trindade’s (2002) finding that the ethnic Chineses communities in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taïwan, and Indonesia nmaintain important trade relationships. [...]


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