The long shadow of human capital destruction

Hard to Forget: Long-lasting Effects of Social Capital Accumulation Shocks

By: Amodio, Francesco (Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit)
Very few contributions have dealt with the analysis of specific determinants of social capital accumulation and destruction. Even if limited in scale, the analysis of precise historical events can help in discerning the dynamics of social capital and its persistence. The case of Italian unification is here considered. I focus on three historical episodes of conflict, which caused the death of a big fraction of population in three specific locations. When towns in the areas surrounding these locations are considered, I show how each kilometer further from the hit town is associated with a significant increase in the electoral turnout in European Parliament elections held in 1979-1999. I believe these differences to reflect differences in social capital endowments across towns. The pattern is confirmed when World War I casualties are used as a measure of social capital at the beginning of the XXth century. Results are robust to the inclusion of a number of controls and to several robustness checks.

This entry was posted in Economics and public policy, Political theory. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The long shadow of human capital destruction

  1. Patrick says:

    So Europe’s long flirt with socialism was the result of WWII destroying their social capital?

  2. Julie Thomas says:

    Does anybody else think that the most important social capital nations have is their population and the way to become a more successful country is to enable as many of the population as possible to grow up to be ‘able’ to make good choices and be good citizens?

    It is clearly not just a matter of choice whether a child does grow up to be a functional person who contributes or one who is dysfunctional and destructive of themselves and their community. We learn how to be a good person in our childhood by observing what really happens and by modelling ourselves on successful people in our environment.

    I suppose for those who choose to believe that it is all a matter of playing the hand you were dealt, there is no problem and social capital isn’t ‘true’ or something that is worth thinking about.

    These people will not have much time for the findings of Dr Bruce D Perry but his work shows that trauma – meaning physical or emotional or even chaotic environments damage ‘some’ – this is important because some brains are more vulnerable than others – growing brains in very significant ways.

    They used to provide transcripts on RN – it’s so much quicker to read a transcript.

    This evidence is just another brick in the wall that convinces me that we do not need to improve the IQ of the ‘proles’ as some republican type libertarians call we poor people we free-riders etc, the secret is to a more intelligent and functional population is to prevent the damage to a normal intelligent brain that happens in toxic childhoods and in toxic cultures that think there is ever a need to advocate for more individuality and competition rather than more cooperation and more community.

    • Trev says:

      Well said Julie. We need more like you – people with a sense of community and fair play in this increasingly “What’s in it for me?” society.

    • Tel says:

      Libertarians are not and have never been opposed to cooperation. The important distinction being forced cooperation vs voluntary cooperation. The way you figure out whether something is voluntary is to consider what would happen if the person made the choice to opt-out and not partake in whatever activity is in question.

      I understand that it is amazingly difficult to get anyone to recognize a point of view outside of their own, but just for a moment imagine that there could be people who find the idea of someone else taking over their life and making their decisions for them to be fearful and traumatic. Now apply all the same process of growing and living in a world of fear and trauma.

      If you baptise a child (and I use this as shorthand to say that the child is indoctrinated into the traditions of the church) then in some ways this is equivalent to having the child sign a contract, or entering a child into a marriage. They have made a commitment that they cannot have understood, and the commitment was made for them by someone else. The child might grow up into an adult who is cooperative in the sense that they follow the church law, and do the things that are expected of them, but they never made that conscious choice. Only by baptising an adult (and not just any adult, but someone who has genuine understanding of what they are committing to and why) can you say this person believes in what they are doing.

      So says a very old heresy, and strange though it may seem, not believing in God doesn’t get you out of the logic here. The Atheist society builders are up against all the same problems as the Godly society builders already ran into.

      • Trev says:

        I recently read a blog in which an individual claimed that all government levied taxes were in fact “robbery” unless the individual could decide how their tax contributions were to be spent.

        You’re quite right when you say that “I understand that it is amazingly difficult to get anyone to recognize a point of view outside of their own” (influenced perhaps by Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development) but I’d have to say that views such as I’ve quoted above are way beyond any sense of practicality or of morality (of caring for your fellow man).

        Is anarchism at one end of libertarianism?

        • Tel says:

          I don’t know who exactly you are quoting there, or what the context might be so I won’t try to explain what they might have been thinking when they wrote that.

          Strictly from my own point of view, tax is protection money — you pay for protection or you get hurt. From a practical point of view: [1] I need protection from some small number of my fellow citizens; [2] I need protection from the state itself and [3] I need protection for other states that might decide to invade if they see my government is weak. In the case of [1], I’m not particularly bothered, I could probably do that myself if I had to. In the case of [2] and [3] there’s not a whole lot I can do as an individual against the overwhelming force of an organised military, so I guess I do in fact get a service in return for my protection money. They deliver something I cannot do for myself.

          I did the Wikipedia lookup on Lawrence Kohlberg and I could semi-agree with some of his theory. The “Heinz dilemma” is a bit of a crock. Here’s the quote from Wikipedia:

          A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman’s husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, “No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.” So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife. Should Heinz have broken into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Why or why not?

          So let me see, this drug has only just been invented, and yet a whole bunch of doctors swear that it is the only thing that can cure the woman in question… based on what evidence exactly? Oh yeah, I get it, I’m supposed to be awestruck by authority because they are doctors, they must be real smart or something, and the most important purpose of morality is to help people answer cooked up hypothetical nonsense.

          Then there is the drug seller who insists “I’m going to make money” and somehow thinks he will do this by not selling product. Good luck with that one.

          My answer to the Heinz dilemma as it stands of course is that only Heinz himself can make that decision, to tell him what to do in such a situation would be intrusive and disrespectful.

          Epicurus is credited with the quote, “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.” I think that is probably the best summary so far achieved of the situation, and maybe that relates to the concept of a “Social Contract”, except for the problem that in reality a plurality of social contracts exist under many situations, and at best those agreements are loosely defined. Once you start to put everyone under the same social contract and tightly define the terms you have created a religion. Might as well just join one of the existing religions in that case.

  3. Julie Thomas says:

    Thanks Trev but it is the practical people who do the maths who are needed to work out how we can afford to invest in our people by supporting them and helping them to live up to the standards that make us a decent productive society.

Comments are closed.