by John Hawkins | August 14, 2003 6:53 pm
— Ross Gittins writes an editorial LAMENTING all the choices we have today. Here are a few samples from one of the most ridiculous editorials I’ve read this year…
“But though some choice is obviously better than none, I think choice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, I’m starting to think choice is one of the great cons of consumer capitalism. It’s supposed to be a benefit to consumers, but more often it’s a benefit to business.
For a start, consumers often find the choices they’re presented with quite confusing. You’re being asked to compare an apple with an orange.
….Psychologists tell us our brains are simply not capable of making rational choices between more than two options with differing features….
…Being able to choose gives customers the illusion of being in control. Against that, however, customers often find multi-faceted choices frustrating. No matter which way they jump, they’re left with a sneaking suspicion they jumped the wrong way. To this extent, excessive choice makes people unhappy, not happy.
When it comes to deciding what to do with our time, we have a much wider choice than we used to in, say, the 1950s. For work we have to choose how many lunches or conferences to attend, how many newspapers and news bulletins to absorb. At weekends there’s an infinite variety of leisure pursuits to pick from.
But I have a theory that so much choice is making us greedy. We rush from one thing to the next, trying to fit in as much as we can, while never getting to do all we’d hoped.”
Ah, I see, if only we had LESS choices we’d all be happy. Think about what a better world it would be if only it were so! If only there were a government that made sure we all got the same phone service, listened to the same news, watched the same TV shows, ate the same lousy food — hey wait, there are countries like that! Of course they’re all run by dictators, Communists, and Islamo-Fascists and most people who live in them would love nothing better than to get the Hell out of there to anywhere they do have choices. But do they really know what’s good for them? After all, they may live the lifestyle Gittins seems to think is so fantastic, but he’s writing a column for a prestigious Aussie paper, so he must know better!
Now some of you may think I’m being to hard on Gittins, but this sort of thinking bugs the hell out of me. It reminds me of people talking about how wonderful these primitive cultures in the depths of the rain forest are and how terrible it is that they’re being corrupted by exposure to Western culture. Meanwhile, these idealists never want to live in one of these cultures that they’re lauding. Same deal here. Gittins talks about how awful all these choices are for consumers, but he isn’t moving to a country like Cuba or North Korea where his choices would be greatly limited is he?
To the contrary, I bet he’s taking advantage of his right to choose at every opportunity. I mean do you think Gittins would patronize a grocery store that opened up in his neighborhood that only carried 15 different items? Would he sign-up for a cable company with only 4 channels if he could get 20 channels for the same price at another company? Of course he wouldn’t, because choice is not a “con”, it’s the essence of capitalism and what drives the market and makes it so responsive to people’s needs. All of us (including Gittins) should be thrilled we have so many choices instead whinging about it.
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