Unreviewed Reviews – The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

by March 30th, 2010 - Politics » Culture » The Written Word »

Late one night while watching an episode of the Colbert Report, it came time for the interview segment to which more often or not I tend to make a jerking off gesture towards the product being peddled, Colbert’s comic flair lubricating the way, but on this night rubbed myself imaginarily raw in protest of guest Bary Schwartz and his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. Although Colbert was able to add some entertainment to the segment by taking some potent, but friendly jabs at the premise of the book, the meat of the interview essentially stuttered along with Barry Schwartz plodding through the pop psychology revelation that the multitudes of choices we have either paralyze people with indecision or, when a choice is actually made, leaves that brave soul depressed that the pleasures derived from said choice were not perfect.

Hey Barry…shit happens…wear a fucking helmet!

Or perhaps stop writing books, as there are just so many topics to write about, and words to compose them with, that you may be paralyzed by all the choices as your fingers tremble nervously above the keyboard searching for even the right letter with which to begin any one of them.


My gut reaction has been to automatically connect such lazy, crazy complaints as these to a political agenda as in: “Let me show you why all these choices you have available to you are a cancer, so that we may join forces to eliminate them…for the greater good.”

A quick jump to Amazon reading up on, but still not actually reading another of Schwartz’s books, The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life makes me think this alarm may not simply be the jumped-to-conclusion of a rabid libertarian.

But the political angle is too easy an argument – albeit often lost on many – and my complaint regarding the book is so much simpler. Whether or not it is politically motivated, really more so if it is not, the vapid revelation that some things that are generally positive may also have undesirable consequences is appallingly…soul-destroyingly…boring.

Freedom of choice isn’t bad. Some of the choices for some people some of the time may be worse than others they could have made. But…that’s one of the simpler facts of life, man. You win some and lose some and keep plugging away.

On the Colbert Report, Schwartz gave an example of trying to purchase the “right” pair of jeans from amongst several choices. He cited complaints with both the anxiety of the decision and that while the jeans he ended up with were the best pair he had every wore, the experience as a whole was depressing.


Maybe you suck at shopping, Barry! Or perhaps, you need to stop looking for sexual healing from your fucking jeans. They’re…fucking…jeans, dude.

Maybe…just maybe…it ain’t cause of the choices.

Perhaps, Frank Zappa said it best:

“Maybe you should stay with yo’ mama
She could do your laundry ‘n’ cook for you
Maybe you should stay with yo’ mama
You’re really kinda stupid ‘n’ ugly too

You ain’t really made for bein’ out in the street
Ain’t much hope for a fool like you
’cause if you play the game, you will get beat”

Yo Mama
Sheik Yerbouti
Frank Zappa

Of course, I haven’t read the damn book…and shan’t…though I am still glad I have the choice…and was brave enough to make it thusly. However, given my willful ignorance, I will allow that there may be something, anything interesting contained within the book – perhaps there was a slight printing error that caused the page number 27 to appear in a particular artistic way – but over all I would expect a whining list as infinite as and yet less enlightening than “You May Be a Redneck if…” jokes

…and as entertaining at the unreleased M. Night Shyamalan movie “All People Like One Thing” wherein the whole world, as we know it to be, enjoys and ravenously consumes chocolate ice cream. All goes well until the double surprise twist at the end revealing that the Pastor’s wife doesn’t care for chocolate ice cream, preferring vanilla instead. We suspect violence from the Pastor in response to this frightening revelation, but instead he admits that he doesn’t care for ice cream at all. The proper dramatic music is played and we shit ourselves while the credits roll.

So in conclusion, if you happen to be so crippled by or otherwise unable to navigate the seas of an even somewhat free market that provides this plague of choices, the solution is clear: Ask the Government* to make all your decisions for you and everyone else whether they are similarly conflicted or instead actually enjoy choice…

…proving that…YES! you could do worse than relying on your own decision-making skills.

Carpe Que Sera Sera, baby…

*Of course, you would have to decide amongst many choices of politicians to vote for. Oh cruel world!

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