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 »