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Barry Schwartz on More is less
Saturday, January 29, 2005

Barry Schwartz is a psychologist at Swarthmore college in Pennsylvania. In this PodCast from IT Conversations, he talks about the downsides of choice.

We can't have it all, and worse yet the desire to have it all and the illusion that we can is one of the principal sources of torture of modern affluent free and autonomous thinkers."

He makes the following points:

  • It is impossible to have your expectations exceeded in a world of infinite choice
  • More choices means more regrets and, therefore, more paralysis
  • When choices are few, you can blame the world for not providing any good ones; when choices are infinite, you can only blame yourself when something turns out wrong.

Not to be too political (that's for Polliblog), but it seems like our government is still under the illusion that more choice is always better (private accounts, school choice, etc). I agree with Schwartz, we shouldn't have to think about which medicine is best for us or which school is best for our kids or which accounts to invest in for Social Security. It would be far, far better to have the system set up so that we can expect the given -- be it doctor, medicine, school, or investment option -- to be good.


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