Too Many Choices In Our Animating Contest Of Freedom

The “most viewed” Health article on the UK Telegraph yesterday was a bit of progressive tripe by Richard Alleyne, entitled “Too much choice leaving us bewildered and depressed”, some of the brilliance espoused is below…

From the foods we eat, to the television channels we watch, to the schools we send our children too and the career we choose to pursue, society has never offered us so much variety.

But while the ability to choose is generally a good thing, too much freedom of choice is crippling us with indecision and making us unhappy, claims the new research.


Professor Hazel Rose Markus, the author from Stanford University’s Department of Psychology, said: “We cannot assume that choice, as understood by educated, affluent Westerners, is a universal aspiration, and that the provision of choice will necessarily foster freedom and well-being.

“Even in contexts where choice can foster freedom, empowerment, and independence, it is not an unalloyed good. Choice can also produce a numbing uncertainty, depression, and selfishness.”

The authors looked at a body of research into the cultural ideas surrounding choice.
They found that among non-Western cultures and among working-class Westerners, freedom and choice are less important or mean something different than they do for the university-educated people.

Professor Markus said: “And even what counts as a ‘choice’ may be different for non-Westerners than it is for Westerners.

“Moreover, the enormous opportunity for growth and self-advancement that flows from unlimited freedom of choice may diminish rather than enhance subjective well-being.”

So, for the un-educated class in the “affluent west” and everyone else in the world, too much choice is a bad thing, it will only make us unhappy. Obviously, what we really need is more bread and circuses!

Professor Marcus’ study isn’t breaking new ground, its been covered before by Professor Barry Schwartz, of Swarthmore College, and even touched on by Cass Sunstein. But it just smacks of the progressive idea that “It Takes A Village.”

The suggestion that we would be happier with fewer choices reminds me of Samuel Adams, who said, “If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.” Making choices is part and parcel of that “animating contest of freedom” that he speaks of. The loss of any of those choices lessens our freedom and moves the chains closer to our wrists and ankles.

Choices involve decisions, decisions can be painful, but dealing with the consequences of our decisions makes us who and what we are. Of course people worry about making the wrong decision but that doesn’t justify progressives making the decision for us.

Many years ago as a young Squad Leader in the US Army I was training at the National Training Center at Ft Irwin, CA. My squad was attacked by a BMP, I knew we had to do something, but I couldn’t decide what. Return fire? Run away? Needless to say while I wasted time NOT making a decision we all died. Of course the only pain resulting from this death is listening to the piercing beep of the MILES gear we all wore and knowing that my inability to make a decision would have killed my men and failed in our mission. The grizzled old Sergeant First Class who was our Observer/Controller could have shouted a command and spurred us all into motion, but he watched in silence while he allowed me to fail. That’s a rough day for a young Non-Commissioned Officer filled with piss and vinegar. Later, during the After Action Review, that grizzled, tobacco chewing SFC asked me what I thought I was doing during the attack. I said I didn’t know, I couldn’t decide what the RIGHT thing to do was. His reply formed my decision making style and a fair portion of my very personality today. There isn’t a week that goes by that I am not reminded of him saying “You’re better off doing the wrong thing than you are doing nothing at all. Sometimes you just gotta pick one and go for it.”

People, like businesses, must be allowed to fail, it’s how we learn, at least its how we learn those lessons we remember forever. It’s part of the “animating contest of freedom” that makes life worth living.

I don’t just preach allowing people to fail; I practice it, as I was trained. My number two son is 22 and back under my roof. He had his opportunity to fail and he did, heinously. We didn’t need a village or a government, we needed a family. He’s back on his feet, he’s even commented to me a couple times, “Wow Pops, when you said (insert dad’s pet peeve here) you were right! I thought you were just mean and grouchy, but you were right!” My reply has been something along the lines of “You can be mean and grouchy AND right, you know!” He’s a contributing member of society again; I just need to get him to contribute from his own apartment…

We don’t need progressive protection from the choices in our lives, we need the village and the government to get out of our way and allow us to enjoy the animating contest of freedom that is life in America!