Victor Davis Hanson penned a recent article to explain the economic situation in Greece and elsewhere in the world. He articulated some general stereotypes that are pertinent to understanding the reasons for rampant wealth in one nation, while a nation of similar size, demographics, and geography can be swimming in abject poverty:
To put these crude stereotypes more abstractly, is civil society mostly moderate, predicated on the rule of law, and meritocratic — or is it characterized by self-indulgence, cynicism, and tribalism?… Race does not explain present-day national wealth…. Instead, culture explains far more.
The answers to these questions do not hinge on race, money, or natural wealth, but they do involve culture and the way average people predictably live minute by minute. Again, these national habits and traditions accrued over centuries, and as much as politics or economics, they explain in part why Bonn is not Athens, and Zurich is not Naples, or for that matter why Cairo is unlike Tel Aviv or why Mexico City differs from Toronto.