Beliefs are one component of culture. Data from the World Values Survey is available on a subset of beliefs concerning (broadly) meritocracy and poverty that appear relevant for economics. We document how they vary as well as their distribution across countries. We then correlate these measures of beliefs with economic growth and compare them with institutional and geographical determinants of income. A strong negative relationship is found between leftist economic beliefs and growth but little evidence is found of a relationship with respect to non-economic beliefs. Finally, we briefly discuss some causal effects on beliefs. The evidence suggests that higher country risk and more dependence on natural resources shifts nations to a more leftist set of economic beliefs. Overall the evidence supports the view that cultural specificities may explain why certain institutions cannot be transplanted between nations with different cultural histories and underlines the limit to policy activism.