The Economic Consequences of My Dislike for Blutwurst
Blutwurst was on the menu last night at the local restaurant where we ate. Yuck! And I imagine most Americans would agree. They would also agree about Vegemite, Scotch eggs (probably the single worst food I ever made the mistake of eating), and gusanos fritos.
No doubt we can think of examples from many countries’ cuisines; and probably we eat some things that disgust most other people. But these differences should cause worries about using economic theory to understand behavior: if our preferences (utility functions) differ so much across countries, how can we hope to have a universal science (which is how I like to think about economics)?
Saying that these are cultural differences begs the question: do we have an economic theory of culture? I suppose we could render unto the sociologists what they believe is theirs; but I’ve never seen any positive (in the sense of refutable) predictions come out of sociological explanations.
We need a serious economic theory of culture. We can’t just point out that culture as proxied by attitudes affects behavior: an increasingly common approach in macroeconomics and even in my own area of labor economics (and even by me).
(Hat tip: Margard Ody)