Views of the Market: A Cross-Cultural Comparison

Randy Richards (St. Ambrose University)

In a 1997 article, Ian Maitland sets forth a distinction between market pessimists and market optimists.  Pessimists hold that the free market destroys the virtues essential to the functioning of both the market itself as well as the civil society. Optimists believe that the free market generates its own self-sustaining set of virtues by rewarding behavior that is good for individuals and the civil society. We constructed an eighteen item Likert-scale instrument to measure market optimism and pessimism with two questions each for a set of four behaviors: trustworthiness, sympathy, fairness and self-control (following Maitland’s suggestion).  Our research validates the instrument and shows that it neatly distinguishes between respondents’ optimistic and pessimistic beliefs.  Using the instrument, we surveyed MBA students in Lithuania and compared their responses to surveys we conducted in the U.S., Croatia and South Africa.  We explore the likely reasons for these differences and suggest some future research.

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