The Economics of Patriotism

Economic theories have addressed hundreds of topics and rendered several findings over the last decades. One could argue that the discipline step by step take up almost all parts of human live which might be not suitable to its original frame. Regardless this inner discussion on economic imperialism, I wondered to which extent does patriotism change our motivations and actions and to which extent can those actually be measured? Will I find effects of patriotism towards economic growth?

Effects might be many folded and indirect, or direct and clearly measurable. I will concentrate on the direct links between Patriotism and Economic Growth and discuss a bunch of indirect effects which could be evaluated as well.

My first inspiration I got from Hofstede. The Dutch social psychologist in his book The Confucius Connection, states, that exceptionally strong and widespread cultural attributes and social norms of a society do heavily influence the economic growth of a country. Hofstede ranked 20 countries according to the implementation of Confucian Dynamism in their societies. When he compared the ranking to annual growth rate of nation’s economy, it then appeared that the country’s score on Confucian Dynamism are strongly associated with those of a country’s economic growth.

However, Hofstede did not include „patriotism“ as a  social attribute/mentality in his analysis.  I argue, that it seems reasonable to expect that the level of patriotism positively correlates with nations economic growth rate.

But what is patriotism?

I went from the Oxford´s definition towards Nathanson in his book „ Patriotism, Morality, and Peace“ (1993), but most convincingly, I find the definition by Schatz et al. (1999), that one must differentiate between blind patriotism and constructive patriotism. Blind patriotism thus, the authors define as the „perception of national superiority“, while constructive patriotism is defined as a desire to question and criticize current group practices, which is intended to result in positive change (cf. Schatz et al, 1999:15). According to Schatz and his colleagues, patriotism can be defined as a sense of special affection and pride towards a country that one can identify with.

Studies and surveys regarding the level of patriotism in different regions or nations are surprisingly rare. To achieve the most accurate results, one would have to analyze surveys that differentiate between blind and constructive patriotism. Since “constructive patriots” are interested in achieving positive change for their own country, a big share of the population of a country being constructive patriots could positively affect a country’s economic growth, so my argument.Unfortunately, there are no surveys yet, that differentiate between those two  forms of patriotism. Inglehart´s famous and constantly used “World Values Survey” (WVS; Wave 6) could yield an appropriate source. The scholars asked people of different nations between 2010 to 2014, how proud they are to be a citizen of their nation. This includes two of the three main parts of defining patriotism as stated in my definition: Pride for and identification with a country.

The direct Link between Patriotism and Economic Growth

I compared the results of the WVS study (2010–2014) with the average economic growth rates provided by the World Bank´s World Development Indicator for 55 countries and found that there is a positive correlation between patriotism and economic growth. The Direct link seems given but to get a complete answer on my question I will need to find further results. Here come some reflections:

The indirect Link between Patriotism and Economic Growth – What comes next?

One might investigate in finding data on the percentage of stakeholders of a firm, holding stakes on national and international companies. The argument could be that constructive patriots might rather invest in native firms than in those based outside their country of origin. Further, one could take import and export duties against foreign countries into consideration. A problem here is to distinguish to the term economic patriotism. The discussion around economic patriotism, which means economic protectionism, should be separate from my attempt. The patriotism I am after, rather reflects individual standing than a nation’s economic tendencies. Of course, links are given and the question needs to be raised, if individual and constructive patriotism can be seen as summable to economic protectionism. The ruling question behind this discussion would be to assume that constructive patriots want the best for their country and what is the best? A liberal system which might generate more economic output or a protectionist system which might favour native companies and workers and so on? Always given that those assumptions are correct.

Also a natural experiment could be discussed. The Soccer World Championship in Germany could be such an example. Germany widely is considered as not much patriotic and during the Championship many Germans felt much more patriotic to their country, than during other competitions. The Championship was held in Germany since decades. One would need to check the direct and indirect measurements of patriotism and compare them before and after the event. This would be a whole study itself!

And most enjoyable I thought of the Question where patriotism plays a role to specific things and what are their possible effects on economic changes. A currently highly discussed topic is the brain drain. The brain drain describes the movement from well educated individuals towards better paid positions across countries. Thus the countries with less attractive working environments lose their potential workers to more attractive ones. The effects of brain drain on a country’s economic development got frequently addressed in political discussions and academia (cf. Mountford 1997; Beine et al. 2001). Beine and his colleagues distinguish two growth effects: “an ex ante brain effect (migration prospects foster investments in education because of higher returns abroad), and an ex post “drain effect” (because of actual migration flows)” (Beine et al; 2001:1). They tested their theory on 37 developing countries and suggest a positive effect of the brain drain to the new hosting country. My argument is, that patriotic (constructive or blind) individuals, would stay in their home country, which could lead to increased economic activity.


The discussion gets drive when seeing the topic from a current political discussion point, since tendencies are observable, that countries mix individual patriotism with protectionism in a broader economic sense. Also I am curious to get comments from other social siences. Maybe some anthropologists out there?



Beine, M., Docquier, F., & Rapoport, H. (2001). Brain drain and economic growth: theory and evidence. Journal of development economics, 64(1), 275-289.

Hofstede, G., & Bond, M. H. (1988). The Confucius connection: From cultural roots to economic growth. Organizational dynamics, 16(4), p. 5-21.

Mountford, A. (1997). Can a brain drain be good for growth in the source economy?. Journal of development economics, 53(2), 287-303.

Rose-Ackerman, S. (1997). The political economy of corruption. Corruption and the global economy, 31, 60

Nathanson, S. (1993: page 34-35). Patriotism, morality, and peace. Rowman & Littlefield.

Schatz, R. T., Staub, E., & Lavine, H. (1999). On the varieties of national attachment: Blind versus constructive patriotism.Political Psychology, 20(1), 151-174

WORLD VALUES SURVEY Wave 6 2010-2014 OFFICIAL AGGREGATE v.20150418. World Values Survey Association ( Aggregate File Producer: Asep/JDS, Madrid SPAIN.


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