Whenever capitalism is praised, the most common thing I hear is that free markets breed competition which breeds diversity of choice. I think this is a legitimate praise for free markets. It is true that economic competition leads to greater diversity.

But how how valuable is having a wide range of choices? Psychologically, it is not helpful. It is a well studied phenomenon that the more choices we have, the less content we are with our decisions. I think a little introspection can, for most people, confirm this. In general when we have a lot to choose from we are more likely to be discontent with what we have, worry we made the wrong decisions etc. Of course it usually feels good to have a wide range of choices, but what we think we like does not necessarily equal what makes us happiest.
Of course there are areas where people being spurred towards creative diversity is helpful to humanity. Scientific discoveries that can improve our health or our impact on the environment, as well as the arts.(and it is also true that people are generally happier when they have greater control over their lives. Such as being able to work the type of job they want at the hours they want etc. While similar, I think this is different than what I am here discussing)

But I think some fields do well on their own, without financial incentives to create. Particularly Science and art. The best art, in my opinion, is made when as free from financial motivations as possible. And science is something that drives people, like art, for its own sake. A lot of great science is done through Universities or other non-capitalist institutions.

So while capitalism may be great at giving us an enormous selection of toothbrushes, perhaps that not only doesn't add to the quality of our lives, but detracts. I really do love having a lot of options, but perhaps I would be happier without them. Though I am a pretty happy guy. And I actually have very few options because I am so poor.

1 comment:

Vincent said...

Well, I agree with all this. I too have few choices through being rather poor, and love it that way.