The NYT editorial page today had an interesting article showing how having more choices could actually make people more unhappy. More choices mean you have to spend more time to collect information to hopefully make the right decision; and people with more choices spend more time looking back and regretting that they may have made the wrong decision.
Come to think of it, that’s one of the reasons I find Japan a congenial place in many ways—there are fewer choices in general. There’s usually only one choice as regards what kind of health insurance you’re going to get. There are many fewer choices, if any at all, as to how you’re going to invest your retirement money. You don’t have so many choices to make in how to run basic social aspects of your life. You spend less time worrying about choices in the job market since you change jobs less.
America seems to be going in the opposite direction. Now we even have too many choices of which anti-depressant to take to treat our unhappiness at having too many choices to deal with. So I have a modest proposal. People who don’t want to decide what stock to invest in can just put their money into index funds. We should apply the index fund concept to everything. For instance, it should be possible to go to an electronics site and just say you want the same digital camera in the $200-250 range that everyone else is getting. All stores would be required to report the information about what everyone is buying in a standardized form to a central location so all the people that didn’t want to spend all their time choosing among the 50 different models could just buy the most popular one.