Choice is bad


I’m not the first to say so (for example see here) but for many years I’ve been telling Mrs Relevant that there’s far too much choice in the world.

I know, it sounds counterintuitive – but (as an example) think about the last time you bought a car. Even if you narrowed it down to a particular make and model, think about what colour you should purchase. Or the trim level. Or the engine size. Some manufacturers event have variants of the same size engine (for example a more powerful but less economical variant of the same 1.6 engine). Even if you’ve made it this far, should you buy the optional extras such as the parking sensors? They may even ask you what size alloy wheels you want. 16″? 17″? Does it really matter? You betcha – larger wheels have more expensive tyres but can give better road-holding. Oh, decisions, decisions…

But let’s face it, retail decisions are nothing compared to the ‘life’ decisions that we face. In the glorious past (and here I’m thinking of the halcyon days of the late 70’s and early 80’s) people would buy a house and send their kids to the local school. If you were lucky you’d move to a ‘posh’ part of the town where (inevitably) the schools were nicer, but the key point is that there was no choice in schools. Nowadays parents are given choice – choice to decide which school to send their little Johnny or Jane to. Oh the pressures of ranking 5 schools in order of preference, and sending that out to the local council! How can a parent truly decide which school will be best for their child? I’m sure they can narrow it down to a top 2 or 3, but can they really be sure that their #1 choice will be the best one they could have made?

I like to think that (in general) the world is populated with people who want to ‘do the right thing’ and that the only real problem is that those people simply are not sure what the right thing is. In other words, we want to make the right choice, but often the physical act of choosing is too tiring/difficult that we end up in a mess. I’m sure I’m not the only person whose nadir is the thought of having an occupation (for example a soldier) who is constantly ordered to do things (without any free choice). However, in some ways that lifestyle is attractive. No decisions to make, no tired brain – I imagine that it frees up a lot of ‘weight’ hanging on the mind.

Before the recession, recent (the previous 20 years or so) politics in Britain was dominated by the idea that giving the population more choice was good. The idea that a state-controlled life (such as the much-derided communist systems) was a good thing sounded absurd. However, I personally think that people’s happiness is not increased (directly) by increased choice – instead, there is a much more complex relationship.

  • People living in the Soviet era may have had less freedom and choice, but I suspect that their day-to-date happiness was governed much more by their love-life, what they were hoping to have for tea that evening, and how well their local football team was doing.

We (in Britain particularly) have created a society where life is an endless series of choices, and we worry that we are making the best choices for our loved ones. All I’m saying is that (looking back) it was a delight to live in earlier ‘simpler’ times. Back then we had very little choice, so there was no pressure to make the right choice.

Anyway, before I go, I just want to lighten the mood by suggesting that if you want a quick laugh then click here.

  • It made me chuckle anyway 🙂

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