Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Do Iranians Believe in Maximizing Utility?

One of the fundamental assumptions in microeconomics is that any individual is maximizing his or her utility. This means that individuals seek “satisfaction” in their behavior by choosing between their available options. All options are not available due to limited resources, means or income. This constrain is usually referred to as “budget line”. There is no doubt in my mind, and any other microeconomist for that matter, that any individual indeed acts accordingly.

My question however is of a different nature. Given the cultural values in Iran do Iranians consider maximizing satisfaction a legitimate goal? By this I mean do we, Iranians, believe in each other’s right to have a fulfilled life, to act according to our desires and to maximize our satisfaction?

Growing up in Iran during a time of war your correspondent witnessed a culture of “self-sacrifice.” mother for her children, father for his family and an individual for the welfare of country and its defense should forsake their desires. Thus assuming or accepting that an individual should, could or would do something for “pleasure” and “satisfaction” was not advocated. Today I wonder if that has resulted in an illusion where any analysis based on maximizing utility could be rejected. I just wonder if my compatriots believe or accept this fundamental assumption.

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