The Influence Of Culture

Marc Bellamare thinks economists take an overly simplistic view of it:

Economists are generally suspicious of explanations for behavior relying on culture. This likely stems from the fact that individual rationality, whose twin assumptions of completeness and transitivity constitute the cornerstone of economics and of much of modern social science, are not context-dependent. The typical economist’s skepticism regarding culture as an explanation for behavior also stems from the fact that most economists fundamentally believe a human being is a human being the world over, and only economic circumstances change to provide a different set of incentives, which themselves explain variations in behavior.

He disagrees, pointing to a study on UN diplomats and parking violations as evidence:

[B]efore 2002, when UN diplomats did not have to pay their parking tickets, a Bangladeshi diplomat, … acting like a textbook homo economicus, would almost never pay her parking tickets. But surprisingly, a Finnish diplomat, acting completely unlike homo economicus, would almost always pay his parking tickets. In other words, diplomats would “import” their cultural norms vis-à-vis corruption.