Thursday, June 16, 2005

The paradox of toothpaste and antibiotics

Check out this excellent article by Virginia Postrel, former editor of Reason. . It’s basically a rebuttal to much of the anti-choice rhetoric that has emerged in recent years. Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice, published in January 2004, received a great deal of mainstream media attention for it’s thesis that all the choices in our modern market economy were making people miserable. His thoughts have been echoed and expanded by a number of scholars.

Postrell does a wonderful job of taking on the ridiculous arguments of the anti-choice crowd; however the lonely libertarian thinks that the obvious is being ignored. And that is that choice is a natural progression in any progressive society. Our choices grow with technological progress and our understanding of the world around us. Any artificial limitation of choice would be an artificial limitation of progress.

In a way, the anti-choice crowd is really taking on the paradox that is progress. It’s the old question, why have computers created more paperwork? This is a difficult question for some, mainly those for who romantically look back at a picturesque world lacking in antibiotics. Maybe it’s just me, but I like the fact that doctors can chose what antibiotics to use when treating me. Sure, maybe it was nice when your only choice was death by bubonic plague, but I’ll take the modern world, thanks.

And for those who decry a whole wall of toothpaste selections, the lonely libertarian has a simple solution. Go pick your toothpaste at random. No one is forcing you to make any sort of a choice. For those who do make a choice, some will make their choice based upon cost alone, others upon brand name. Others still will make their choice upon ingredients, other aspects of toothpaste, or some sort of combination. And while how we make our choices may actually be choices in and of themselves, these choices of just what is important in our lives, and how we want to deal with the world around us are basic choices of existence. Some of us will chose to make choices about how we will select our toothpaste, while others of us will live in cabins in the wood in Montana, sending bombs in the mail.


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