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Quote 858

No one's idea of excellence in conduct is that people should do absolutely nothing but copy one another.

   --  John Stuart Mill

A Free Society


or those that think we live in a free society, think about the following.
You cannot eat what you want, you cannot own what you want, you cannot express yourself in the way you would like. You may be forced to do something against your will, or limited in the way you can do it, or have your choices restricted. This takes place whether anyone would suffer otherwise or not.

Why the fuss over choice?

Quote 923

Nothing makes conditions more unbearable than the knowledge that no effort of ours can change them

   --  Friedrich von Hayek

It is doubtful anyone reading will say that having more choices makes their life worse.
Choice is all about outcomes and which outcome is preferred. This is done by evaluating which path will generate the most value for the risk taken.

Problems occur because others have choices as well, but not everybody makes the same choices. This leads people to want the choice of controlling other peoples choices for both good and bad motives.

The question is never "should there be a choice" but always "who should make that choice".

The problem with controlling other peoples choices

Quote 625

All human beings are confronted with a multitude of ways that they may use physical resources, including their own bodies. The challenge of making good choices regarding the use of resources would be difficult enough in an “atomistic” world where one’s choices had no effect on the choices of others.

   --  Randy Barnett

Quote 1033

Imposing a specific social outcome is like determining in advance who will win a game: it makes the whole activity pointless and not worthwhile.

   --  Dr Eamonn Butler

Trivial choices

  • Its not possible - there are too many people making too many choices each day
  • Administrative cost- the costs of doing this outweigh the benefits

Non Trivial choices

  • It doesn't take into account the individuals preferences.
  • It doesn't take into account the individuals specific circumstances.
  • Self determination -It doesn't take into account the individuals wish to make choices and bear the responsibility.
  • Responsibility - It moves the responsibility for making the choice to the decision maker and away from the affected.
  • Efficiency- the choice made may not be efficient someone may be designated an artist when they have no passion or skill for it but skill as an engineer, and vice versa.
  • Administration and compliance costs.
  • Abuse of power, the decision maker doesn't always feel pain when making wrong decisions.
  • Evaluation, the one making the choice is divorced from the consequences and finds it hard to get good feedback about whether the choices were good or not.
  • Randy Barnett says "I am the only person in the world to know what I am perceiving right now and in this sense this knowledge is intensely personal." This knowledge cannot be taken into account by others when making decisions on your behalf. Also a decision maker cannot know your inner thoughts and feelings, nor experience the range of choices available to you.

It just sounds wrong, as a reader if I say to you, I am going to decide
  1. Whether you should live or die
  2. Where you should work and how much you get paid
  3. What you should eat where you should go
  4. Who you should have relationships and children with
  5. When you should speak and what you should be allowed to say
  6. What you may own and do with it
Yes, this is exactly where socialism and communism leads. This is not conjecture, it is fact you can read about many communist states such Stalin's USSR and Cambodia's Pol Pot Regime.

Choice restrictions

Image 011 The following image excludes crimes.
Choice restrictions
Pages related to this will cover 
  • What you must do (e.g Conscription, taxes)
  • What you must do if (e.g Seatbelt, Helmet)
  • Licensing (e.g Drivers licence, Alcohol licence)
  • What you must not do unless (e.g road rules)
  • What you must not do (e.g Drugs)


Imposed Standards reduce choice. Someone might not choose to have a below standard experience, but they will make other choices because of the standards which will make them have the below standard experience. For this reason having imposed standards reduces the persons other choices indirectly.
Strangely enough, having more choices, tends to drive up standards through competition.

Things that may affect choices


Quote 863

“A person may, without blame, either like or dislike rowing, or smoking, or music, or athletic exercises, or chess, or cards, or study, because both those who like each of these things, and those who dislike them, are too numerous to be put down. But the man, and still more the woman, who can be accused either of doing "what nobody does," or of not doing "what everybody does," is the subject of as much depreciatory remark as if he or she had committed some grave moral delinquency.

   --  John Stuart Mill

A free society

  • Associations
  • Ethnic heritage
  • Social pressure


  • Availability
  • Economy
  • Medical conditions
  • Convenience
  • Timing


  • Habits
  • Tradition


  • Preference
  • Values
  • Emotional comfort
  • Image

Types of choices

Choices may be
  • Trivial
  • Non-trivial
  • Preferential outcome (prefer red over blue)
  • Non Preferential outcome (no preference of red or blue)
  • Confusing (too many choices)
  • limited(too little choices)
  • Complicated
  • Simple
  • Certain
  • Uncertain
  • Unsatisfying(better of two evils)
  • Satisfying(best of both worlds)
  • Contingent decisions (if he goes here, I will go there)
  • Non- Contingent
  • Similar options
  • Dissimilar options

Choice requires

  • Rationality - the more rational the better
  • Judgement - the better the judgement the better the choices
  • Imagination - to conceptualise what choices are available
Choices are like muscles, the more you make, the better you get at making them.

Legal limitations on choice

Governments can:
  1. Ban
  2. Licence
  3. Hinder
  4. Market/propgadise

Voice or Choice

Both are feedback mechanisms. 
Voice means the organisation(monopoly) relies on feedback from various sources, surveys, complaints, politicians etc.
Choice means the individual chooses the provider of that service, providing a Darwinian feedback mechanism.


"No choice about me without me"

Choice of choices

People tend to be either
Maximisers - (must not make a bad choice)
Satisficers - ("that will do")

Problems with choice

  • Mistakes can be made
  • Bad choices can be made
  • A feeling of regret can ensue
  • Cognitive burden can make the choice unpleasant