March 13, 2006

Food for thought

'Having fewer choices and therefore fewer decisions to make is itself a freedom'

Hopefully this is a controversial statement, and someone will comment on it. Pretty please :-))

- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Hmmm. Not really, as there aren't a lot of people about to comment.

    It's kind of true. Maybe. If you only have one choice then you don't have to decide, so if you're indecisive you don't have to melt your brain. On the other hand, if you only have one choice and you don't like it, that's not so wonderful either.

    13 Mar 2006, 16:53

  2. But surely you only dislike your one choice because you are aware and envious of alternatives?

    However, admittedly, I do suffer majorly from indecisiveness. In fact I hate making decisions. I get frustrated when I have to choose because I never know whether what I'm doing is right or wrong, and a little voice at the back of my head tells me there are 100s of implications whatever you decide. All I can do is make an educated guess but even this is not good enough – if I make the wrong decision then I will be held accountable for it myself so inevitably I will have regrets later in life. Choosing the right career is the ultimate nightmare. Similarly, I get annoyed at the number of 'choices' available on the market, because there is no way my brain can digest so much information. In fact the Chancellor of Warwick, Sir Nicholas Scheele once said that there is too much information today for the human mind to possibly absorb and digest it all. I hate browsing with no idea of what to buy: I find it can be so enslaving and time wasting. The only shopping I enjoy is going to Tescos: because I only eat a certain range of foods I know more or less what I'm going to buy. I can admire the displays of other foods and occasionally I might buy something different (which is very exciting only because I usually buy the same things) but I know that by and large those products are there for other people to buy, which I find comforting.

    Liberalism is great if you're perfect but if you're defective like me it can be very cruel.

    13 Mar 2006, 17:33

  3. Having fewer choices has one effect for sure: it makes you want to create choices. In creating choices you are actually being active, rather than choosing from a limited amount of choices, which is essentially not real freedom. Like Americans having to chose between the two evils each time they hold elections; or the British choosing between more parties – it's still a choice of something that's been made by someone else. In choosing it you automatically obide by rules created by someone else, hence it's not so much freedom. So, if you view the quoted statement as assuming people would get more active and create choices for themselves, then I don't see a reason to disagree.

    21 Mar 2006, 22:15

  4. Alex – let me rephrase my quoted statement in a more fashionable way, which may be more familiar to you as a woman: 'less is more'. I think what you actually mean by the 'creation of choices' is that however many choices someone has they will want (assuming they are young, self-confident – as you rightly asserted on your blog – and energetic) to exploit opportunities to modify their resources – by working hard to achieve a goal such as a high paying job, for example, and earning more money they will increase the availability of choices offered to them as consumers (though I believe there is a finite ceiling, because of factors such as exhaustion, nostalgia, the security of familiarity, and decreasingly so, less rational and unquestioned standards and principles). My point is, for instance, that before the advent of CDs, minidiscs and MP3 players there were only LPs (and later on cassettes) – people knew what they wanted (now they have to chose whether to invest in CDs, or spend time finding music to download from the Internet), and they were perfectly happy in their ignorant bliss of CDs, minidiscs and MP3 players to buy LPs. The fact that they would not have purchased LPs had they known about CDs, minidiscs and CDs (and they had been available on the market at the time) is besides the point since they were happy buying LPs. The problem is that libertarian free market capitalists forget that fact. They cannot be happy with what they have, or if they are the hapiness will be fleeting. Because they are also libertarians there are no boundaries to what they will do and because they are free market capitalists they will always want something new, different and 'better' – i.e. more attractive, efficient etc. Their capacity for regret about missed opportunities (and remember that in a materialist society there are an infinite amount of choices), therefore, and the pressure caused by habituation to novelty and therefore the chemical buzz of replacing what they have relatively often are incalculably enormous. This is how addiction operates and addiction is enslaving. Do people actually know what they want? I don't think so. How many adverts on the Internet, on TV or in newspapers or magazines do you see daily? Do you read them all, make a balanced judgement after conducting a cost benefit analysis of what to buy or not to buy? No. But if you had read through them all is it very likely that you would have found something you did really want to buy and you would have bought that item instead of spending your money on something else? Yes. Therefore you cannot possibly know what you want, given those choices.

    22 Mar 2006, 17:31

  5. Free market capitalists always want more, and therefore they will never be satisfied. The most effective way to satisfaction – to realising how happy you really are – is actually to regress. Imagine going to the gym – many people go to the gym to body build or to lose weight. But after every gym session and before the following one everyone's muscles will inevitably shrink and their body fat will increase. When they return to the gym they will appreciate the happiness they gained from their former physique as soon as they have put back on the muscle they formelly had or return to their former lipidic level even if they then continue exercising. Think how fantastic a glass of water is after exercise or if you were a 'mad dog or Englishman – like me' and went out for a long walk in the blazing midday sun in the heat of summer. Think how much you would want that glass of water if you were in that situation. But would you appreciate a glass of water as much on a night out, when a whole array of different alchoholic beverages? Imagine how many people would stay together if they bore this philosophy in mind. Imagine, how much less anxiety and emotional distress they would undergo. If this is what you had in mind (bearing in mind of course that 'fewer choices' means necessarily less than a certain sum) then you can actively put yourself in a position where the choices available to you will be more valuable to you. Political parties are somewhat different to the consumer market, of course, insofar as (decreasingly) they are not completely in competition with each other but are instead ideological. People vote for political parties for different reasons then they go shopping. Therefore it is actually desirable to have greater choice (of ideologies and therefore real choice since competition in politics causes conversion, whether in the US or elsewhere). This is actually very complicated because politics operates irrationally and there are massive legal restraints on the choices offered by the UK political parties because of our membership of the EU - and the EU is itself constrained within the framework of its treaties.)

    22 Mar 2006, 17:31

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