FauxPolitik

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Radley Hammers Choice Fatigue: Our dear Agitator's latest Fox column shows that the command-and-control left will always have yet another stalking horse for the effort to make our decisions for us. This time it's "choice fatigue":
"Sometimes, critics argue, government should limit people's choices," [Times essayist Eduardo] Porter writes. "That is, choose for them." Porter used the concept of "choice fatigue" to argue against private Social Security accounts. Some people can be overwhelmed by choice, the thinking goes, and sometimes, some people will choose poorly.

Therefore, at least in this case, it's better that government make all choices for all people.

Obviously, Radley doesn't have the space here to take on the whole tangled mess, but it's worth noting that the "choices" government would seek to limit for us always seem to be the biggies, usually related to economic freedom. Notice that progressive think tankers aren't saying, "Golly, we really ought to do something about all the choices people have for cell phone ring tones." Rather, they can leave such choices up to us, and they'll offer to take the load off somewhere else. Like deciding how to invest in our retirements. Now, the progressive mind would say, "Ring tones are fluff; but your retirement is too important to be left up to you." To the contrary, it is far too important to be left up to the government's mentality of one size (or one tiny rate of return, to be precise) fits all.

Beyond that, the explicit message of the left is that some folks are unfit (who and how many are left unsaid) to make these decisions. But note that many people make retirement decisions anyway, managing a portfolio independent of Social Security, making decisions on IRAs, 401 (k) funds, bond funds, DRIP investments, CDs, commodities, and real estate. Some add another layer of complexity by whirling futures into the mix, which makes the no doubt terribly difficult task of selecting a one of three or four funds for some small part of your payroll taxes (about all the reform we can hope for in our wildest dreams) seem like a game of pin the tail on Adam Smith.

In other words, if the progressive argument's there for relieving you of the choices with your payroll taxes, why should we be allowed to diddle in the market with our discretionary funds? We'll probably just blow it anyway, right? But if the overabundance of choices is really the problem, then keeping everyone chained to the slow death of Social Security is no solution, since anyone who wants to live on more than Tender Vittles in the golden years will need to go out and make those same damn choices anyway, with his or her discretionary income.

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