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Abstract

Departures from self-interested behavior have been observed in a broad range of economics experiments, and suggested by case studies of ethical purchase behaviour. These are often attributed to people's ethical preferences or altruism. This paper looks for empirical evidence of ethical purchase behaviour in a decentralized, private good market. From the assumption that a good's marginal utility is conditional upon its perceived ethical status, it follows that demand for the good should shift with changes in its perceived ethical status relative to other goods. This assumption is tested with reference to Canadian demand for Chilean wine in the years 1962 to 1994. It is asked whether consumer demand shifted to the left during Chile's military dictatorship between 1973 and 1989. Despite suggestive changes in export trade patterns before and after the dictatorship, no significant evidence of ethical purchase behaviour is found after controlling for relative prices and expenditure.

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