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Opinion | Are too many choices ruining us?




For the publisher:

Re Too Much Choice Is Hurting America, by Paul Krugman (column, March 2):

While our digital world needed to simplify our lives and leave us more free for discretionary activities, it instead led to pervasive frustration and paralysis. What was once simple now involves 15 steps with uncertain success (think phone answering menus). What was once a routine now requires study and persistence (think smart TV).

Support requests typically require strenuous computer chat sessions or long waits to speak in person to another expert whose perfect but deaf English and scripted courtesy vainly camouflage an inability to truly help.

While complexity may be inevitable in light of our goals, much can be made more navigable by more thoughtful programming and a greater respect for human boundaries, both intellectual and emotional.

Michael SchubertTeaneck, NJ The writer is a psychologist.

For the publisher:

What Paul Krugman does not say is who has the right to choose given our limited ability to process information. Answer: Well educated and well placed elites like Mr. Krugman himself.

This vanity has been an essential component of collectivist movements from the beginning. Were unable to know what was best for us, so our intellectual bettors would have to decide.

Rather, I will let go of those who have to live with the consequences of their decisions, and not the so-called experts who are isolated when they make the wrong call. The freedom to choose means more freedom, not less, regardless of what the people with the right degrees and awards might tell you.

Steven D. Anderson Sacramento The writer is President and CEO of the Pacific Legal Foundation.

For the publisher:

I agree with Paul Krugman that sometimes we have too many choices. This is certainly true in the field of health insurance. The only reason you have multiple diets to choose from is that you can’t afford the right one.

But where we really want a choice in health care is the doctor and the hospital. That’s what you would get with Medicare for All or, in New York, with the NY Health Act. And both would give everyone the same guaranteed, very comprehensive, lifetime Platinum plan.

Elizabeth R. RosenthalLarchmont, NY The writer is a retired dermatologist.

For the publisher:

A good metaphor for too many choices is an email ad I recently received about tennis rackets.

Wilson is one of several other companies that manufacture over 30 models each.

Besides never being able to try them all, unless your last name was Federer or Nadal, you would lack the expertise to tell the difference between them.

Michael MarekFort Lauderdale, Florida

For the publisher:

Kudos to Paul Krugman for bringing out the dizzying aspect of excess choice in modern American consumerism. But it’s worth pointing out that a large portion of modern American businesses thrive on precisely this advantage of having information that is not readily available to the ordinary consumer.

To protect this advantage, companies often resist government-mandated disclosure and push for further deregulation. In addition to government resistance to this pressure, aid sometimes comes in the form of a clear, transparent and understandable alternative.

One example is the simplified fare structure that Southwest Airlines introduced a few years ago for its large, low-cost carriers. But it seems that sooner or later the complexity of the merry-go-round takes over, and the mind-boggling clustering picks up again, with cottage industries of performers and advisers to deconstruct and compare packages in plain English.

Too much choice is just flimflam. Is this really a necessary part of generalized consumerism?

Michael DeLaurentisElkins Park, Pennsylvania.

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