Pavel Pelikán: The economic constraint on multiculturalism: why Europe should protect its western institutional rules
In Europe, multiculturalism used to be welcome in the name of western values of freedom and tolerance to diversity. But a growing controversy is now putting it in doubt. Some arguments against it are based on the values of patriotism and national identity. These, however, although able to attract strong emotions, are analytically weak, possible to reject as culturally relativist. Stronger arguments build on the logical inconsistencies involved – such as tolerance of intolerance, or freedom for religions to oppress individuals vs. Freedom of individuals. But the controversy is still far from settled.
This paper brings in another non-relativist argument that takes into account the effects of cultures on economic performance. It starts with the well-known findings of institutional and developmental economics showing that cultures significantly differ in their effect on economies, and that the West grew rich largely thanks to certain ingredients of its cultures. It then examines in what ways these ingredients are now threatened by ingredients of other, economically less successful cultures, and by internal decay. To conclude, it briefly discusses properties of policies by which these key ingredients, without which the West would become poor again, might possibly be protected. But how to design and implement such policies is recognized to be a difficult question that is left open.