Most people seem to believe that there exists a quality threshold for people in a democracy, ie quality of the community for individuals to thrive. Iraq, for example, might not pass the test. An important question is then from where did this quality come?
Was it World War II that made people behave for some time? The average war-free time in Europe the last 400 years or so is about 70 years. According to Rolf Gustavsson in a column in Svenska Dagbladet, a Stockholm daily, Peer Steinbrück, the former finance minister of Germany, is wondering if Europe is in a path of future instability again. The debt crisis set a certain scenario. It is never good if serious people like that are pessimistic, even if he and SPD favor an economy different from that of the US. Europe seems to have 27 economies, the US one and China another. A pessimist would say that the US economy and China's economy are like Protestantism and Catolicism of the 17th century.
Looking for ideas that speak of progress rather than decline, science has a positive development gradient over time despite war and peace fluctuations. It seems like the history of ideas is progressive. I would hypothesize that this gradient is dependent on the quality of the community, wherever it came from, which then should be increasing.
Religion is stable in the US whereas Europe has become more secular. Therefore it is difficult to argue that religion would be a key factor in the increase rather than maintenance of citizen quality. What is it then that gives people the energy to perform in society? After all it is ironic that in this age of social media we would be degenerating socially which the bulk of communitarians seem to think. If I have understood this correctly, Sweden has two types of conservatives one on each side of the middle.
So, is it the quality of the community that drives progress in science or it is the reverse? I would argue that the inspiration from individual successes entertain the public and renders hope for future progress and thereby builds character in the community.