Stadiums, Bazaars, and Signalling

“Imagine going to a stadium to see a soccer game,” says Ozevin. “Would you enjoy the game without shouting? Bazaars are just like stadiums, if you can’t shout there is no joy.

There’s also very little information, or (in the jargon of political science and economics) signalling. Officials in Istanbul seem not to care about the value of information–in fact, they are imposing costs on it:

“I swear its nothing but rubbish,” Karlidag says. “When we shout we attract customers. If I’m selling something for seven lira a kilo, and someone else for nine, they can come and buy from me if it suits them.”

City officials say they will respond to noise complaints first by giving vendors warnings. Then there will be fines. And finally, vendors could lose their licenses.

It’s unclear where the impetus for the new regulations came from since, according to the story, “most shoppers don’t seem to mind” the noise from vendors’ shouting. It is notable that although Turkish officials have been remarkably successful at regulating numerous aspects of public life, they have yet to ban another form of signalling–the call to prayer by muezzins at each mosque five times daily (although some visitors to Istanbul find the practice a bit grating).

One possible explanation for the shouting ban alluded to in the story is that shouting is seen as the behavior of poor, uneducated people.

“When the level of education rises, the more enlightened people are, the more quietly they speak,” Dericioglu says. “The sellers are so economically deprived that think they will get what they want just by shouting loudly.”

In fact, regulations in many countries seem to be motivated by the desire of wealthier and more educated people to make the lives of poor people look more like the rich think they “should.” (I can’t remember whether I’ve written on this before, but if not, someone remind me to write a post about Florida housing regulations to illustrate this.)

As pointed out by Mr. Karlidag’s statement above, the ban on shouting–and consequently, on the free flow of information–within the bazaar will lead to consumers having less information. This may in turn lead them to make inefficient decisions, such as paying too much for anchovies. (For more on the information content of prices, see this post.) Economists call this an imperfect market. A bizarre bazaar, if you will.

Further reading: The Wall Street Journal also covered this story.