The Bondage of Choice

I was in the corner gas station yesterday and just had to snap this picture. Holy smokes! Do we really need this much selection?

In America we have so many enumerated freedoms that we have begun to infer freedoms. Notably, freedom of choice. Sure we have such opportunity in the USA, but is that really freedom?

Our more notable freedoms such as speech, religion, and assembly are principles our founders fought and died for. ┬áThese principles also allow for companies to exist and to compete. Corporations are motivated by the knowledge that we can buy their product or the other guy’s. It’s a game, really, and the game works very well. In short, our freedom results in the availability of many choices. But does this abundance of choice bring us freedom?

I would propose that while freedom permits choice, choice does not promote freedom. Rather, choice can bring bondage.

The choice we have comes at a tremendous cost: time.

Consider the amount of time you spent choosing your cell phone. First you compare carriers. Who has the best service and coverage? Then you have to pick a phone – Thousands of amazing options! Then you face the impossible task of comparing plans. By the time you’re done, you have invested many hours.

Think about the amount of time you have spent comparing insurance policies and mutual funds. How long does it take to find the right shampoo or pain killer? Is there really a demand for the dozens of types of orange juice and breath mints that are available? It’s mind-boggling!

If only one type of gum were available, no one would be happy. But I’m sure we’d agree that a 30-yard supermarket aisle containing nothing but gum would be excessive. At what point is the line crossed?

I’m not a communist. I don’t think the government should limit us or dictate our choices. But where is the line?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a good little capitalist. But at what point do we have enough? I guess I’m just getting all philosophical and ponderous in my old age. I’m also spending a lot of time thinking about “how much is enough” in my own life. How much time am I spending on decisions that simply do not matter? How much stuff do I have that I don’t need? I’m a pretty frugal guy, but I know I have much more than I need. What could I be doing with the time and money I am wasting on consumerism?

Heavy thoughts for a Friday I guess. I’m all for having a good time and enjoying the freedoms and choices God has blessed us with. But I pray that I am being a good steward. I pray that I will be found a “good and faithful servant”. I pray that I am finding at least as much time for people as I spend choosing gum.