Choice

A couple notes on choice.

This is a nice review of a book I need to read on the excess of choice in modern life. One story from the review: many young people arrive in their thirties having failed to make any choice about their line of work. The modern world both does not constrain their choices. They are taught to value above all else a diverse portfolio of options, i.e. freedom. They haven’t specialized. They have no depth of expertise.

Then on NPR I hear this story. This guy took an oath to surf every single day. He’d taken the oath last time there was a February 29th on a Sunday and he swore to continue until the next time it happened again. Seems like a reasonable work around for the problem of excessive choice.

This is one of my primary interests, i.e. the question of loyalty. Consistent behavior is one of ways we provide a model for others that they can react to. Consistent behavior is one of the ways we simplify the near infinite cognitive load of moving thru day to day life. Consistent behavior is one of the corner stones of durable collective action. Consistent behavior is what gives us culture, structures, standards. Consistency is the means we use to lower negotiation costs. It’s just too bizarre to pretend that the collective society could be renegotiating the entire social contract every few moments.

So I’m more than a little surprised that apparently philosophers have settled into the presumption that to “honor sunk costs” is a fallacy. Seems to me that the philosophers have been become a bit too loyal to the catechism of the church of portfolio theory.

Finally I recall that when I visited Ireland one of the citizens cornered me wanting to know what I thought of the high divorce rate in the US. Much later I learned that the percentage of folks who are married in the US is substantially higher than that found in Ireland. (You may consider all this to be hearsay.) A fact that reminded me then and now of how the absence lack of a dominate church in the US seems to create a higher level of church membership than that found in countries with a more centralized church.

My take on all this is that clearly if you limit choice substantially (demanding very high loyalty) you get rigid cartoons of real groups. If you create extremely high levels of choice you get very transitory groups that never achieve any depth to their collective activities. It’s one of those not to hot not to cold problems.

Bonus link. It appears that German has a word for Slovenly Peter.

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