Barry Schwartz: Analysis paralysis and the ‘paradox of choice’ justify wealth redistribution

February 4, 2013

I’ve heard it said before that too much choice can be harmful for people. I’m thinking primarily of Sheena Iyengar’s TEDTalk of July, 2010, The Art of Choosing, in which she said at about 10:38:

But for Eastern Europeans [who were acclimating to freer markets after the fall of communism], the sudden availability of all these consumer products on the marketplace was a deluge. They were flooded with choice before they could protest that they didn’t know how to swim. When asked, “What words and images do you associate with choice?” Gregors from Warsaw said, “Ah. For me it is fear. There are some dilemmas, you see. I am used to no choice.” Bodin, from Kiev, said in response to how he felt about the new consumer marketplace, “It is too much. We do not need everything that is there.” …

When someone can’t see how one choice is unlike another, or when there are too many choices to compare and contrast, the process of choosing can be confusing and frustrating. Instead of making better choices, we become overwhelmed by choice, sometimes even afraid of it. Choice no longer offers opportunities, but imposes constraints. It’s not a marker of liberation, but of suffocation by meaningless minutia. In other words, choice can develop into the very opposite of everything it represents in America, when it is thrust up on those who are insufficiently prepared for it.

Her point is well taken that a sudden overabundance of choice can be confusing and frustrating to those whose decision-making faculties have been stunted by years of repression, but her attitude is convoluted. Choice is not the villain here. Choice was not “thrust upon those who were insufficiently prepared for it”. Rather, a cadre of communist despots thrust the absence of choice on those people by force, thereby causing their impreparation for what, in freer countries, is simply the state of nature.  Read the rest of this entry »


Minimum Wage Increases: Economic Snake Oil

January 29, 2013
Senator Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has the cure for our economic ailments, ...

Senator Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has the cure for our economic ailments, …

Checking out the news of the day on facebook, a friend posts this article for our consideration, courtesy of ThinkProgress:

New Jersey Governor Vetoes Minimum Wage Increase

The New Jersey Governor at issue is Republican governor Chris Christie. The tone is not celebratory. My facebook friend lamented: “Really, he might as well just go re-flood people’s homes.” Is it that bad? I’m not convinced.

The thrust of the article is that the people of New Jersey would have bathed in fountains of prosperity, if only the governor would have been willing to force employers to pay their employees more money. The bill, as it was passed, would have increased the minimum wage from its current $7.25 to $8.50. Christie vetoed the bill conditionally, saying he would sign it if the increase were lowered to $8.25 and phased in over three years. This was not good enough for Pat Garofalo, the author of the ThinkProgress piece, who reasoned:

As the New Jersey Policy Perspective noted, “the first year increase proposed by the governor of 25 cents will be erased by inflation by the time the third year kicks in its 25 cents.” Here are more benefits that Christie denied to working New Jerseyans:  Read the rest of this entry »


Bizarre Claim: Businessmen Don’t Create Jobs, Consumers Do

May 17, 2012

Bizarre Claim:

I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a “circle of life” like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me. 

Emphasis added. Full Article: The Inequality Speech That TED Won’t Show You (Oooh! TED censorship! How scandalous!)

The purpose of the claim, as I can tell, is to relieve any anxiety the reader may have felt about the government’s helping itself to people’s property:

That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When you have a tax system in which most of the exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.

So, help yourselves, Washingtion! Help yourselves, America! Don’t worry. You won’t kill any jobs! ….Well, okay. Not so fast. Read the rest of this entry »


Links for January 30, 2012: ACTA is the new SOPA; More on Ron Paul and Racism; others….

January 28, 2012
  1. I can’t commenting on the specifics, as I have not read the agreement, but this much I know: As technology improves, copyright enforcement will become more invasive and more draconian. As I consider intellectual property to be on shaky philosophical ground anyhow, I’d prefer to relinquish it now, a la Stephan Kinsella, than live under the coming police state, a la SOPA, PIPA, and now ACTA.

  2. Just because SOPA may has been tabled, that doesn’t necessarily make the internet a safe place to store and share information.

  3. This tightly knit sweater of criticism leaves a few strings dangling. It deserves a full response. For now, just understand that the alternative to a Civil Rights Act that forces blacks and whites to make nice is not necessarily either government-mandated Jim Crow segregation or segregation reinforced by mob violence. There is another way: Ron Paul’s way, which is not to force anyone to do anything, and to punish those who force their will on others.  Read the rest of this entry »


Links for March 21, 2010: Backlog O’Links 2

March 13, 2011
  • It just makes sense.

  • But it’s been a challenge to convince anyone otherwise. “This is the heart of the problem—money from the Byrne grants,” Piper says. It’s money for overtime. Money for promotions. It’s policing for profit.”

    This great Philadelphia Weekly cover story highlights the embarrassing racial disparity among marijuana arrestees. There is also a great discussion on police incentives to boost pot arrests to show they are making use of stimulus money. And for what? Marijuana prohibition is simply crooked all around.   Read the rest of this entry »


  • Links for November 16, 2010: Some Psychological Stuff, Some Fallacious Stuff, others….

    November 14, 2010
    1. Another fascinating diatribe from Stefan Molyneux. My question is: does this not apply equally well to libertarians and anarchists? Is libertarianism not just another ideology?

    2. Large organizations, including government, which is of course the largest organization of all, have actually become completely disconnected with what actually matters to people. … What behavioral economics shows, time after time, is in human behavior and behavioral change there is a very strong disproportionality at work: that actually what changes our behavior and what changes our attitudes toward things is not actually proportional to the degree of expense entailed or to the degree of force that is applied.

    3. After invalidating more than 30,000 Nader-Camejo signatures on dubious and highly technical grounds – for example, because signers used informal names such as “Bill” instead of “William,” or because their current and registered addresses did not match – Commonwealth Court removed the candidates from the ballot. Then it ordered them to pay their challengers more than $80,000 in litigation costs.

    4. Read the rest of this entry »


    Links for April 12, 2010: Marijuana Policy in Philadelphia, A Critique of Austrian Economics, others…

    April 11, 2010
    1. myfoxphilly.com | D.A. Explains New Pot Policing Proposals Vodpod videos no longer available.

      Seth Williams explains sensible proposal for marijuana arrest procedure, wards off scaremongering. For the latest, check Seth Williams’s recent “Radio Times” interview.

    2. DEA | Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization

      Call from the DEA.

    3. Opposing Views | The DEA’s Top 10 “Facts” on Marijuana Legalization

      Response from NORML. Read the rest of this entry »