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SEPTEMBER, 2009

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Is the traditional work ethics a saviour of American economy?

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No right or left theories would save the future of the U.S. capitalism, but the revival of traditional work ethics that was a unique feature of American culture from its beginning to the mid-twenty century.

America was built on the fundaments of the protestant work ethics of the first settlers - most of them members of different protestant sects. The first settlers created the specific set of democratic institutions of the American uninon and created a cultural environment that praised hard work, abstention, thrift, individual responsibility and honesty.

The protestant ethics was the fundament of American capitalism until the 1960s. In the middle of the 20th century there were a number of reforms, including in school system and state institutions, which estranged the old values with new postmodern theories exalting self-centered individualism, hedonism and moral relativism. Although the 1960s were years of vibrant social engagement they have also brought a new culture. In the 1970s and 1980s the greed mentality, the lack of moral in business, fueled by Hollywood movies and mass culture, replaced the "dull" values of old times.

If we consider Adam Smith's and Max Weber's ideas on capitalism we will see that capitalism is not only an economic system, but an expression of specific culture where moral, ethics and empathy play significant role.

If the capitalism is a cultural phenomenon, so what can save the virtues of American capitalism today? American churches are engaged in debates on gay marriages and abortion, the schools with their "child-centered approach" produce increasingly self-centered generations of young people, the mass culture of Internet, TV and movies is obsessed with material wealth and physical appearance.

The financial bust reminds us that free markets require a constellation of moral virtues writes Steven Malanga, editor of the City Journal and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in a recently published essay. In his writing Malanga does not offer a remedy for the present cultural decline of America, but he succeeds to draw a good picture of the past and present of American work ethics.

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