Confucian Filial Piety, Economic Growth and Divergence among Civilizations
Social Science in China, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, November 2012
23 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2013
Date Written: 2012
This paper employs an economic approach to analyze the influence of Confucian filial piety on economic growth in ancient China. In the highly imperfect credit market of the time, filial piety, as a unique mechanism for fulfilling intergenerational contracts, could to some extent solve problems of verifiability and commitment and thus effectively promote economic growth by increasing savings. However, the implementation and maintenance of filial piety were not spontaneous; it required external intervention by the rulers. Rulers faced a tradeoff when allocating resources between production and war. It was this tradeoff that determined the level of filial piety in society. A comparison between the civilizations of the Central Plains, nomadic Xiongnu society and ancient Rome verifies our proposition and thus explains in some degree the difference between Eastern and Western civilizations.
Keywords: Confucian filial piety, intergenerational exchange, economic growth, divergence among civilizations
JEL Classification: N45, N55, E21
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