We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Humans are genetically uniform, but one of those uniformities is a capacity for acquiring and transmitting culture, some of which is moral culture, from which comes variation in moral dispositions. Different institutional structures are possible only because cultural variation is possible. And a configuaration of institutions, once in place, exerts pressure on culture, which in turn exerts pressure on institutional structure, and so on. If more peace and prosperity is better, and the institutions and behavior that produce peace and prosperity are mediated by moral cultured, and moral culture is embodied as emotive and behavioral dispositions by the people within that society, then it seems evasive to deny that those people are “better” in a pretty obvious sense. People who are better at producing moral ends are morally better. It’s not wrong to visit a place rife with corruption, dishonesty, racism and cruelty and remark that “the people are horrible.” It may not be anyone’s fault that they turned out this way, but people do turn out that way, and whole societies, whole peoples, can and do get better. If behavioral dispositions were in fact invariant, and variations in peace and prosperity were entirely due to variations in institutional structure, Posner would be right. There would be no difference in the people. But since variations in institutions are themselves due in large part to variations in people, Posner is wrong. The evidence points to the conclusion that people in commercial societies are better, which is one of the best reasons to prefer commercial societies.
Comment from Dr. Bliss: Yes, I agree with WW that the always interesting U of Chicago Law Prof and blogger Posner gets it wrong. Institutions shape neither people nor culture: the relationship between people and their culture - and the institutions they produce - is circular and interactive, and an ecological sort of model applies better than a binary or unidirectional one. Funnily enough, I happen to be planning a post on the subject.