If you are sick to the back teeth of debates against Muslims being won on the point of how important it is to be ‘free’ and how great it is to have ‘lifestyle choices’ - If you have heard enough times the statement ‘I can do whatever I like as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone ’ and you know that all of the above is empty rhetoric but you just cannot prove or articulate why I have just the thing for you.
Barry Schwarz, American Psychologist and author of ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less’ challenges what he calls ‘the official dogma of all Western societies’ – This is the idea that if we want to maximise the welfare of all citizens, the way to do so is to maximise individual freedom and thus choice. He argues that this is an appealing concept because it gives individuals the licence to choose as they please and in so doing make themselves happier. But he has found evidence that it actually makes people miserable.
Firstly studies have demonstrated that when you give people more choices, they are less likely to bother choosing at all. This means that they miss out on great opportunities. Secondly once people have chosen they are less likely to be satisfied with their choice as the grass will always seem greener with greater options. Thirdly having so many ways to spend our time leaves us very busy mentally and it becomes harder to switch off e.g. enjoy a relaxing walk when we could have been playing computer games. Finally, whereas in the olden days when there were fewer choices, if we were not satisfied with our product, we could simply blame the world. Nowadays if we are dissatisfied with our choice, given that we were the ones who chose it, we tend to blame ourselves. Schwarz interestingly goes on to make the point that this could account for some of the rising levels of depression and suicidality in society despite the improvements of quality of life.
To hear more from Schwarz you can search for his talks on You Tube.