I had the idea for this post and post title before I discovered that a book by the same name was authored by American psychologist Barry Schwartz and published in 2004. The sub-titles of the book are “Why More Is Less” and “How The Culture Of Abundance Robs Us Of Satisfaction.”
From the Amazon review:
“Whether we’re buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions—both big and small—have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.
As Americans, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.”
In Economics, one of the major tenets of the discipline is Diminishing Marginal Utility. That is, the nth + 1 or nth + 2 of something is not as satisfying as the nth. A logical extension of that principle is that a state of negative marginal utility can be reached.
Although the days of all you can eat, serve yourself buffet meals are probably over, I can remember many instances–almost always in Las Vegas–where I was overwhelmed by the number of buffet choices and left the meal worrying I hadn’t sampled everything I might have liked.
OK, where am I going with this? Well, the number of places from which one can buy a car and the different types of car-buying experiences are making a selection of a Grocery Car/Taxi/Corvette Companion more difficult. The fact that I/we are torn between buying something somewhat practical or something more romantic, for lack of a better word, may be an internal factor, but the fact that it is almost too easy to find and to buy a car is a major complication.
I also think that ex post facto rationalization comes into play. To wit:
From CNET a picture of the now-discontinued Buick Cascada. This car is now on the radar as a potential purchase. In Arizona, a convertible is a plus, the car is not ugly–at least not in our opinion–it has four seats and a decent-sized trunk. It’s not a performance car, I think its less than stellar power-to-weight ratio is a reason the car didn’t succeed, but it does have 200 HP/207 LB-FT of torque.
Last night when my wonderful wife and I were talking about this car, I was already “inventing” reasons why it would be a good purchase. The car was manufactured in Poland where my parents were born. The first car I ever drove was a Buick; neither my wonderful wife nor I has ever owned a Buick. All of this because a few examples of this car popped up on a general car search on AutoTrader.
What do you think about The Paradox Of Choice? I see similarities in the quest for choice and the rebellion against tyranny, both of which have probably gone too far in the opposite direction from the “original” state of affairs.
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