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Religion, Work Ethic and the Economy : A Common Thread ?

Career management -
10 September 2008

Religion, Work Ethic and the Economy :  A Common Thread ?
Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, De La Harpe. Do those names ring a bell ? You do remember

those history books back in your school days, right ? Well in case that was a long time ago, they were 16th century church reformers of German, Swiss and  French nationalities respectively ( I am leaving out the details for the sake of simplicity) . Luther, a German monk who held that the Bible was the only infallible source of  religious authority found himself not entirely by design, at the forefront of a powerful religious movement : Protestantism. Soon, this movement swept across Switzerland with influent personalities in the ranks of the clergy and politics (Zwingli and Calvin).

But why this mini history course ? I wanted to point out a number of things and in a nutshell demonstrate how economic development is linked to historical background. Indeed, it is well documented that Protestant areas of the country enjoy a high level of economic activity and prosperity !  On the opposite, when we take a look at a few catholic cantons- Valais, Fribourg, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwald- they are less urbanized and less developed from an economic standpoint. The canton of Valais has always benefited from a vibrant tourism industry but its economy never really capitalized on this success; Fribourg is known for its cathedral, its diocese and university as well as for its fondue; Uri and Unterwald are the land of our founders, they are conservative cantons and "neinsager"- i.e. naysayers- at heart !  Obviously this a somewhat exaggerated characterization but  as everyone knows even caricatures have some elements of truth to them ...So where are the most developed economies among the 26 cantons of Switzerland ?

Let's start with the canton of Vaud for one, base to a number of international blue chip companies and universities. Geneva is a banking hub largely due to its Huguenot tradition. Z├╝rich of course is the economic capital of Switzerland, Basle-Country has a lot of large industries (most notably the textile industry), Aargovia (Aargau) benefits from powerful industrial investments and finally Bern is the political capital of the country.

Is this all due to chance ? No, certainly the answer has to be found elsewhere: a way of life! Indeed, for Protestants work leads to Salvation. The consequence is that these more prosperous and better developed areas in perpetual transformation attract many people looking for employment . Take a moment to think about this because it has strong implications for not only job seekers but for all entrepreneurs !  Don't get me wrong, this is in no way a stigmatization of either Catholicism or Protestantism, I am only giving you pointers to help you maximize your career potential.   Protestants' attitudes toward God and work are radically opposed to those of the members of the Catholic Church. For the former striving for wealth accumulation through rigor and precision in work leads to the ultimate goal of  Salvation. There is no possibility of redemption through confession as there is only a direct link with that which we call God (the One who listens and guide). For the latter, escaping Hell's inferno is achievable not so much through hard work but mostly through redemption of the sins committed during life. The answer to our question of whether there is a link between religion, work ethic and prosperity is thus a resounding yes .

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