The Free Market Georgian

The Free Market Georgian

frankclobukar1.jpgThe FINANCIAL -- Georgians claim to staunchly support free market competition more than most Europeans, but hold some opinions that are distinctly more socialist or anti-competition.

In the last wave of the European Values Survey, Georgian Opinion Research Business International, the Georgian member of Gallup international, polled 1500 Georgians.  Many opinion questions were asked about a variety of issues, some of which I will use to gauge the strength of Georgia’s free-market convictions. 

Georgians strongly believe in rewarding workers and businesses based on competitive performance.  On a ten point scale where 1 represents “Competition is good, it stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas,” and 10 represents “Competition is harmful, it brings out the worst in people,” Georgians came out strongly in favor of competition with a mean score of 3.2.  On a similar scale where “there should be greater incentives for individual effort” is 1 and “incomes should be made more equal” is 10, Georgians scored a 2.3, again one of the most free-market scores in Europe.

Georgians are also against state intervention in business more than any other country in Europe.  When asked whether “The state should give more freedom to firms (1)” or “The state should control firms more effectively (10),” the answer was the most liberal in all of Europe (4.5).  Georgians are also skeptical of state run businesses; the Georgian opinion as to which entity should increase its ownership of business and industry, private (1) or government (10), the mean was 4.2, another European extreme.

The Compassionate State

On the other hand we see a definite desire for state intervention in some areas; Georgians were the most likely of all Europeans to say that “the state should take more responsibility to ensure that everyone is provided for.”  When asked why people in Georgia live in need, the most common first response was injustice in society.  In contrast, the most common second response was that poverty was simply a part of modern progress.  In fact, Georgia is one of the select few ex-soviet states to side with central and northern Europe in this estimation.  Most of the rest of the ex USSR chose laziness as the main reason for poverty. 

These concepts of state compassion and poverty being a social injustice are very similar to the rest of Europe, which confounds easily understanding the Georgian mindset.  These concepts are not necessarily incompatible; you can have a strong free market preference while still wanting social safety nets in place.  It’s simply a rare and interesting contrast, especially in its extremity.

These apparent internal contradictions continue: of the Georgians who believe that free competition is a good thing, nearly all believe that job priority should be given to citizens (93%), and 40%  believe that priority should be given to men when hiring. These desires for preferential treatment are far greater than in most other countries, you’ve surely guessed.  Whether these views are internally inconsistent or the Georgian mindset is just more nuanced and well thought out, it’s clear that it’s unique.

For the purposes of this analysis, all scales were organized with 1 as the most “free-market” option and 10 as the most “socialist” option; in the original questionnaire the orientation varied.

There were 1500 Georgians included in this poll, and around 50,000 other Europeans.  Polls of this sort have a margin of error of 3.5% with a 95% confidence interval. 

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