Neckties in the Tropics: A Model of International Trade and Cultural Diversity
Some cultural goods, like clothes and films, are consumed socially and are thus characterized by the same consumption network externalities as languages. At the sametime, producers of new cultural goods in any one country draw on the stock of ideasgenerated by previous cultural production in all countries. For such goods, costless tradeand communication tend to lead to the dominance of one cultural style, increasing utilityin the short run but reducing quality and generating cultural stagnation in the long run.Increasing trade costs while keeping communication costs low may reduce welfare bystimulating production of cultural goods that are compatible with the dominant style,thereby capturing consumption network externalities, but that add little to the stock ofusable ideas. Our two-country analysis suggests a reform of cultural policy wherebyimport restrictions in the smaller country are removed, and are replaced by subsidies tothe fixed costs of production of new cultural goods in its traditional style.
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