How "Freedom of Choice" Tyrannizes the American Psychology

What we are more often presented with than not--from the realm of politics to the grocery store aisle--is a phony array of options that adversely affects our individual and collective psychology.

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A large portion of Daniel Kahneman's Nobel Prize-winning work in economics rests on the conclusion that humans are not great at making decisions in their self interest. And the more choices we are given, the worse we perform, becoming paralyzed by sheer variety. From this, a cottage industry of self-help books has emerged. The authors of such books claim to harness the power of decision making to improve our lives. Social scientists, however, remain skeptical. What we are more often presented with than not--from the realm of politics to the grocery store aisle--is a phony array of options that adversely affects our individual and collective psychology.

What's the Big Idea?

Choice and freedom are bedrock values in a democratic capitalist society, but today we have too much of a good thing: thousands of TV channels, hundreds of shampoos, etc. Accompanying our society's emphasis on choice is a responsibility to choose wisely, meaning that when things in life don't exactly work out, the burden is on us and the guilt can be overwhelming. It may be that the market restricts our choices as much as it enables them. After all, "the one choice not readily available to us is the choice to limit the spread of the market and its values."

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