The tyranny of free-market choice

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Grace Ballor
Contributing Writer

We live in a tyranny – a tyranny of choice. The free market, home to any and every producer, presents the consumer with an overwhelming array of options for each desire or need.  While this plethora of options may seem like an exciting luxury at first, consumers can become so overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, that it is impossible to make a decision. Many social scientists are now finding strong statistical evidence that the increase in America’s GDP is directly related to the increase in American depression, dissatisfaction and suicide.

Think about your most recent trip to the grocery store. When you stood in front of the bread aisle, what went through your mind? Was it, “This is easy – I like white bread”? Or did you begin sweating and feeling nervous because you had no idea whether to go with the Sara Lee sprouted seven-grain, or the Mrs. Baird’s whole wheat 20 oz. loaf, or the Fiber One multi-grain, or the … See what I mean?

Even teen pop-star Rebecca Black panicked at the thought of having to make choices, when her friends were “Chillin’ in the front seat, chillin’ in the back seat. Gotta make my mind up. Which seat can I taaaake?” It was all just a bit too much for Rebecca. Feeling oppressed by the tyranny of choice, she crumbled under the pressure and produced one of the worst songs of the last year.

No one is exempt from this tyranny, but there are ways to overcome its oppression in particular circumstances. I discovered my own method of conquering the tyranny of choice when planning my wedding. I knew that I could get married in any country, in any city, in any venue – but how was I supposed to decide and then live with my choice, knowing that the odds of me choosing the “perfect” venue were literally one in a million?

Thankfully, that’s when I discovered the economic model of decision-making, a wonderful little matrix method to help you reclaim your life from the tyranny of choice. Simply make a list of your options, then a perpendicular list of your criteria for making a choice. Put a “plus” when an option satisfies your criteria and a “minus” when an option is deficient. After each option has been analyzed per your criteria, tally up the pluses and minuses in order to establish a ranking of your options. Select the option that won the most pluses.
Voila. A decision you can live with.

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