Opinion | Is Too Much Choice Ruining Us?

To the Editor:

Re “Too Much Choice Is Hurting America,” by Paul Krugman (column, March 2):

While our digital world was expected to simplify our lives and leave us freer for discretionary activities, it has led instead to ubiquitous frustration and paralysis. What was once simple now involves 15 steps with uncertain success (think phone answering menus). What was once routine now requires study and perseverance (think “smart TV”).

Requests for assistance typically demand arduous computer “chat” sessions or long waits to speak in person to a different expert whose perfect but tone-deaf English and scripted courtesy unsuccessfully camouflage an inability to truly assist.

While the complexity may be unavoidable in light of our goals, much of it can be made more navigable by more thoughtful programming and greater respect for human limitations, both intellectual and emotional.

Michael Schubert
Teaneck, N.J.
The writer is a psychologist.

To the Editor:

What Paul Krugman leaves unsaid is who actually gets to choose given our “limited ability to process information.” Answer: the well-educated, well-positioned elites like Mr. Krugman himself.

This conceit has been the essential component of collectivist movements from the beginning. We’re incapable of knowing what’s best for us, so our intellectual betters should decide.

I’ll cast my lot instead with those who have to live with the consequences of their decisions, not the so-called experts who are insulated when making the wrong call. Freedom to choose means more freedom, not less, regardless of what people with the right degrees and awards might tell you.

Steven D. Anderson
Sacramento
The writer is president and chief executive of the Pacific Legal Foundation.

To the Editor:

I agree with Paul Krugman that sometimes we have too many choices. It is certainly true in health insurance. The only reason to have more than one plan to choose from is that you can’t afford the good one.

But where we really want a choice in health care is of doctor and hospital. This is what you would get with Medicare for All or, in New York, with the NY Health Act. And both of these would give everyone the same guaranteed, very comprehensive, lifelong “platinum plan.”

Elizabeth R. Rosenthal
Larchmont, N.Y.
The writer is a retired dermatologist.

To the Editor:

A good metaphor for too much choice is an email ad I recently received about tennis rackets.

Wilson is among several other companies that make more than 30 models each.

Besides never being able to try all of them, unless your last name is Federer or Nadal, you would lack the expertise to tell the difference between them.

Michael Marek
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

To the Editor:

Kudos to Paul Krugman for highlighting the dizzying aspect of a surfeit of choice in modern American consumer mania. But it should be pointed out that much of modern American business thrives on precisely this advantage of possessing information not readily available to the ordinary consumer.

To protect this advantage, businesses often resist government-mandated disclosure and press for increased deregulation. Aside from government resistance to this pressure, help sometimes arrives in the form of a no-nonsense, transparent, comprehensible alternative.

One example is the simplified fare structure Southwest Airlines introduced some years ago for its low-cost, full-size carriers. But it seems that sooner or later, the complexity merry-go-round takes over, and the mind-boggling bundling resumes, along with cottage industries of interpreters and advisers to deconstruct and compare the bundles in plain English.

Too much choice is just flimflam. Is it really a necessary part of broad-based consumerism?

Michael DeLaurentis
Elkins Park, Pa.

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