The full report, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis,” is available on the website of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (IJRR). The authors of the study are Brian J. Grim, Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, and Greg Clark and Robert Edward Snyder, Brigham Young University's International Center for Law and Religion Studies.
Why competitiveness is stronger with religious freedom: Findings from the study
Given the global role religious groups play in providing educational and health services, it is not surprising that health as well as primary, secondary, and technical education is stronger in countries with more religious freedom and less religious hostility. Environments with religious freedom allow religious groups to better provide educational and health services, which are often part of their core mission.
Religious freedom may contribute to innovation and technological readiness to the degree to which these are stimulated by the ability of people to act freely and without fear of government or social reprisals for new thoughts. Indeed, a core component of religious freedom is that there is no religious board by which innovative ideas and technologies must be passed; for example, there is no threat that innovation will carry a death penalty if it crosses a religious red line such as blasphemy. This does not minimize the importance of religiously inspired ethical codes and standards, but religious freedom implies that such codes are not enforced by government or religious authorities over matters in which they may have no particular expertise. Rather, these are matters for professional deliberation, perhaps informed as appropriate by such moral codes.
Indeed, it seems that religious freedom may encourage ethical codes, as shown by the stronger relationship with the CGI pillar that takes ethics into account: institutional environment promoting wealth. This pillar is captured in the CGI by measures of the absence of onerous government bureaucracy, overregulation, corruption, dishonesty in dealing with public contracts, lack of transparency, and trustworthiness. The degree to which religious freedom fosters greater religious participation, as suggested by religious economies theory, may help to explain why religious freedom relates to a stronger institutional environment promoting wealth.
Similarly, the development of communications infrastructure may be stimulated when there are no excessive restrictions on broadcasting and literature, as are found in countries with high levels of religious restrictions.
Business sophistication, a measure of the quality of business networks and strategies, may be helped along by a competitive religious economy. In such environments, religious groups engage in branding, marketing, distribution, and the production of unique and sophisticated products and services. Indeed, while religion involves core spiritual dimensions, the service, publication, and outreach activities of religious groups provide large segments of the population with local and perhaps homegrown examples of sophisticated networking and growth strategies.
Regarding the labor pillar, religious freedom may relate to stronger labor market efficiency to the degree to which it is associated with a lack of discrimination with regard to religion in the workplace, allowing all workers to realize their most effective place in an economy with the incentive to give their best effort on the job.
When it comes to indicators that are associated with market size and the macroeconomic environment, the relationships are somewhat different. The dip in the economy in the West that triggered fiscal deficits may explain why only 11 percent of countries with low government restrictions had strong macroeconomic environments, whereas the relative strength of the economy in countries such China may explain why countries with high government restrictions scored higher on this measure.
Finally, the data show that market size is stronger (i.e., larger) in countries with high government restrictions (such as China) and high social hostilities (such as India). However, rather than religious freedom being a determinant of market size, this indicates that future growth potential is in countries that currently have large market sizes, many of which have high government restrictions on religion. On the basis of the other indicators of global competitiveness, size alone is not likely to ensure sustainable growth.