The economic approach to development is useful but prone to overuse and misuse.
Accordingly, I use multiple approaches to understanding complexity, which is what economic success is about. Culture is an important component of success. Culture includes the value given to time and considerations of wealth creation and innovation and rule of law. Anyone who disregards culture has to explain why Chinese immigrants work so hard to excel at school, and within a generation become above-average income earners in the United States. (Yes, part of the answer is that immigrants are, by definition, greater risk-takers, but that is again an incomplete answer.) Culture also evolves in the context of geography and other factors.
Romney, on his trip to Israel, argued that cultural differences explain Palestinian failures. This willfully ignores the long Palestinian history of education and serving as entrepreneurial leaders throughout the Middle East. It also ignores the Israeli occupation and enforced border closure that keeps out trade. In short, Romney was insulting to the Palestinians and pandering to the Israelis for political gain.
Also ironic was Romney's lauding of Israeli health care, which is heavily government controlled.
Jared Diamond, who was quoted by Romney in his culture speech, also disputes Romney's conclusions in today's NY Times. Diamond concludes:
Will [Romney] continue to espouse one-factor explanations for multicausal problems, and fail to understand history and the modern world? If so, he will preside over a declining nation squandering its advantages of location and history.