GDP PER CAPITA, JAPAN, 1750-2000
I am interested in knowing what causes a defeated, decimated, burned to the ground (literally) nation to rise up from ashes and re-industrialize to a phenomenal state and the other to stall and keep spinning its wheels arguing over childish stupid things for decades.
I am convinced that its in a certain mentality that a nation assumes. It becomes part of their national identity. It becomes how they see themselves and their place in the world. I am not talking about slogans issued from the pulpit or tribune. I am talking about what people talk about and believe in their unconsciously held system of believes.
Let me start with this, if your nation has a good size, that is something of the order of tens of millions, there is no reason why your nation shouldn't be able to develop to the same level of any developed country. Forget about "comparative advantage." To see how absurd it is to insist that countries have to stick to their comparative advantage think about US. What was the comparative advantage of US in 1800s? You must have heard the phrase that says "cotton is the king" that was US comparative advantage. If US would have followed that principle, its main exports today would have been corn, cotton and other commodities.
That brings us to what mentality would keep you poor and underdeveloped, here is my 2 cents on the subject.
Follower mentality: the idea that we have to follow others, leaders of the field in every thing, the idea that there is something wrong with trying something yourself, something immature about trying to build something yourself, go to lab and sweat and curse until you get it to work. That's what keeps you behind, not trying yourself, makes you dependent.
Mercantile Mentality: It's always easier to buy low and sell high, and make a buck, that's all right, but if your economy is based on import/export, your economy will be linked to producers and consumers. If you get used to the easy work of trading, you can pretend you are developed but no one will take you seriously.
Victim hood: True, the main reason that a lot of countries are under developed is the policies of imperial powers of 16th to 20th century. It is again easier to say we will never develop because they made sure we won't. you must try, you must think, you must find a way.
Blaming : The is a bis theme, blaming this or that. "We never develop because we have oil" No ! this is your stupidity talking. Oil is not a curse, diamond is not a curse, gold is not your curse. Stop blaming other things. You have to learn to build things and satisfy your needs. Work makes wealth, wealth brings development. You don't want to start thinking about working, because it is easier to blame it on other things.
Language : You might not think this is important, but I think it is. I think, using english language and not try to find domestic equivalent, makes you think that every development must come from an english speaking language, in turn, it makes you think that your country would never accomplish any thing. Languages are not the same in their expressive power, but I think, it is a sad failure of imagination if we think that your language being Farsi, or whatever it is does not have the capacity to express new things. When automobile industry came to Iran, normal mechanics with high school education built a lot of words for their day to day use. Some of the Ivory tower thinkers of other fields, thought it beneath themselves to do the same.
Disrespecting your common people and their culture: Stop saying that our culture is such that it prevents development, I kept hearing this nonsense when I was in Iran. Until I came to US, and figured that things are not that different culturally, in fact in some areas, I dare say, I found americans much much less culturally developed that my own fellow Iranians. Your culture is fine. Stop blaming the culture. Have respect for common people, for the shoe shiner, for the bus driver, remember he would have been as educated as you, if someone would have put him through all the school years and paid for his expenses.
Improvement of his quality of life is the only good reason behind development.
Nearsightedness: Thinking about a quick buck, would ensure that your children will live in the same country that you grew up in. Think far and wide. The methods by which the world has developed can not work any more. Sustainable development must be engineered from start. you have to think 20-30 years down the road and build things up to support and sustain the development.
These are some of the things I have thought about in these last years. I'll update you if I thought of something else. But these are already hard enough to overcome.