If maps were shaded like balance sheets, the bottom part of mainland
Europe would be deepest red. Italy, Spain and Portugal are heavily in
debt. They are also Catholic countries. Their predominantly Protestant
neighbours to the north, including Germany and Scandinavia, are in
comparatively good shape financially. Is that simply a coincidence, or
is Max Weber's theory about the Protestant ethic being intertwined with
the spirit of capitalism still valid, over 100 years on?
Dr Sascha Becker moved to Warwick University from Munich, where Weber finished his career as a sociologist. And his recent research leads him to suggest that religion
is a factor in the budgetary discrepancies between the north and south
of Europe. "There are plenty of other factors, too, and they're not easy
to disentangle," concedes the deputy director of Warwick's Centre for
Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy [Cage]. "But even data
compiled as recently as 2000 suggests that Protestants generally are
educated to a higher level than Catholics. They have a higher
probability of going to university and finishing their course."
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