Published on October 1st, 2006
I spent the summer of 2006 in London attending a three-week course in microeconomics at the London School Of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Personally, I found simple microeconomics to be applicable in many areas of life and back in Aarhus I was wondering if I could use it to explain why it is so difficult to meet new people in Aarhus.
In this essay about provincialism I used (a simplified version of) George Akerlof‘s lemon theory to analyse the situation. When you meet a stranger somewhere you can never know as much about the person as someone you have known for years, so you have to evaluate if this person is worth talking to, or if you would be better of talking to someone else. For reasons of simplicity let’s say that there are only two kinds of people: interesting people and boring people. If the stranger actively tries to have a conversation with you, you might easily draw the conclusion that he doesn’t have enough friends for himself, and thus you can be fairly certain that he is a boring person, since nobody else wants to hang out with him either. All the interesting people already have enough friends, since they are so interesting.
This is clearly not how it actually happens inside one’s head. However, microeconomic theory was never meant to predict thought – only behavior on a statistical level of generality. In this sense, the theory fits quite well: everyone in Aarhus seems to be going out with their own friends all the time, and if you try to talk to someone you don’t know, they will often perceive of you as strange and rather suspicious.
The essay was published in the October 2006 issue of Delfinen (#127).
Read the full text. (Danish only)