Not being able to see this, culture-based explanations for economic development have usually been little more than ex post facto justifications based on a 20/20 hindsight vision. So, in the early days of capitalism, when most economically successful countries happened to be Protestant Christian, many people argued that Protestantism was uniquely suited to economic development. When Catholic France, Italy, Austria and southern Germany developed rapidly, particularly after the Second World War, Christianity, rather than Protestantism, became the magic culture. Until Japan became rich, many people thought East Asia had not developed because of Confucianism. But when Japan succeeded, this thesis was revised to say that Japan was developing so fast because its unique form of Confucianism emphasized co-operation over individual edification, which the Chinese and Korean versions allegedly valued more highly. And then Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea also started doing well, so this judgement about the different varieties of Confucianism was forgotten. Indeed, Confucianism as a whole suddenly became the best culture for development because it emphasized hard work, saving, education and submission to authority. Today, when we see Muslim Malaysia and Indonesia, Buddhist Thailand and even Hindu India doing well economically, we can soon expect to encounter new theories that will trumpet how uniquely all these cultures are suited for economic development (and how their authors have known about it all along).
Ha-Joon Chang (Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism)