Saturday, February 18, 2012

Choice, Limited Choice, and Not Choosing Limited Choice

If one is familiar with Milton Friedman one is likely familiar with his mantra of “free to choose”. You may well be familiar with his book and subsequent PBS series of the same title Free to Choose. (1) (2)

If one is -or- is not familiar with Milton Friedman, the following is an observation of one of his core views for the unfamiliar, and an excellent reference for the familiar:

“Friedman’s core view of economics and matters of economic policy was fully developed by the time he undertook the massive of his monetary history of the United States. Nevertheless, the events recounted in a key part of that work, his horror story of the Great Contraction , strengthen his convictions and formed much of the theme song he sang for the rest of his life. His viewpoint was remarkably simple, especially for an economist.

Freedom of decision, Friedman believed, was the necessary condition for the economic system to deliver the highest standard of living to the largest number of people. He was convinced that individuals as a group would make consistently better choices for themselves than bureaucrats who aimed to make decisions for those individuals. The Federal Reserve was just one government agency out of the many he would have preferred to see go out of existence or at least be relegated to just maintaining the money supply at a steady level.”
- Peter L. Bernstein, Introduction, 2008 edition of The Great Contraction 1929-1933.

Its been restated many times that a free people, in a free market, free to choose among freely available choices, will make exchange at mutual self interest hence the pie expands. That fallacy exists based on zero sum thinking in that exchange is only a zero sum in that only one party gains at the expense of another party. The fallacy is exposed, in part, due to mutual exchange. If both parties do no perceive a gain, exchange will not occur.

"Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another."- Milton Friedman

One may find insight by considering/constrasting the opposite proposition of Friedman’s free to choose, which is those advocating limited choice:

(1) proponents of limited choice advocate limited choice as the advocates know that the many and several would never choose the limited choice.

(2) advocates of limited choice have in fact chosen the particular limited choice.

Utility, or satisfaction, varies among everyone. Some people derive grand satisfaction by traveling the world while others love to be homebodies. Some love the beach others love the mountains. In each instance the person is free to choose among alternatives that derive the greatest satisfaction for that particular individual in that particular individual’s real time circumstances.

Advocates of limited choice have chosen to limit choice among infinitely dynamically changing choices, of which, yield maximum utility for particular individuals in particular individual circumstances. By extension, individual utility or satisfaction has been thus limited. The “limit” is imposed by limited choice advocates as without the limit the limited choice advocates know that the many and several would never choose the limited choice as they would seek particular-instance maximum satisfaction by way of the many other choices which have now been preempted.

What criteria would one use if one were an advocate of limited choice? Among many “choices” the advocates of limited choice hang their hat upon is “society”. An immediate problem arises in that “society” is an abstract concept. Have you ever met society? Shook hands with “society”? Regarding the abstract concept of “society”, one finds infinitely dynamically changing choices in what society means to particular individuals in particular individual circumstances. Hence the only way “society” can be an argument for limited choice - is if “society” itself becomes an abstract concept of limited definition and meaning.

Note: is society the summation of all the individuals freely choosing -or- is society a top down concept of certain individuals with a pre-chosen vision of society and the now the once free to choose individual must surrenders free choice to fit the pre-chosen vision of certain individuals?

One can quickly see limited choice becomes the plans of the few superseding the plans of the many. That advocates of limited choice want a limit based upon their choices of how they perceive what a limited choice of what “society” should mean to all. (3)

That is, a certain group wants to be free to choose to limit another group’s choice. Choice is used to preempt choice.







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