Amos Poitvein, a loyal MR reader, asks the following question.

I am a longtime reader of MR and there is a question I have been wondering about for a long time.  I was hoping you could share your thoughts on meatball heterogeneity.  My girlfriend made dinner for me and the entree was Swedish meatballs.  I never knew how small their meatballs are.  It seems inefficient to roll all that meat into such tiny balls.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to roll them into big balls like we do in the US?

A few points:

  1. Its tempting to cite elasticity of labor supply here.  Swedish meatballs are served in the home and Sweden’s high marginal tax rates on labor income encourages household production.  However, American meatballs grew out of Italian-American restaurants in immigrant neighborhoods where labor was relatively cheap.  Also, Americans have fatter hands.
  2. The Hansonian take is that meatballs are an important cultural symbol and the size of the American meatball is a signal.  To understand Swedish meatballs,  think ABBA with pork.
  3. It helps to compare with the massive Bulgarian meatball which dwarfs them both.
  4. Perhaps the real puzzle is not why the meatballs are so different in size but the striking geometrical regularity of spherical meat throughout the world’s cuisines.
  5. Need I mention baseball versus bandy?
  6. Then again bandy is played on ice and we all know what that does to balls.
  7. Also Americans believe in the rule of law.
  8. Ligonberries are over-rated but I could spend a whole day just riding the subway in Stockholm.
  1. Don’t get me started on New Jersey.
  2. I wonder if anybody noticed that I skipped over #9.
  3. I’ve been at this for six years and nobody has yet figured out that this blog is a cry for help.
  4. Mankiw was in the Bush Administration, Krugman is flying all over the planet and I am still teaching “Law and Literature” to undergraduates and enjoying scinillating lunchtime conversation with the likes of Arnold Kling.
  5. Will someone please tell me what Paul is saying at the end of “Rocky Raccoon?”
  6. Is this on?
  7. Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine …
  8. What, oh, yes, um… Everyone knows the Swedish are plagued by nearsightedness and their national health service barely covers basic optometry.  Objects on the plate appear larger than they actually are…

The bottom line: I think the most likely explanation is some combination of #5 and #14.

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