Musings in the beer aisle:
Stephen Weiss

Were your ears burning? If so, then perhaps this is why… Markets vs Not-markets.

When I read your story a couple days ago I was tempted to recommend it. As somebody who is fascinated by consumer choice… I did appreciate the detailed insight. The deal breaker was the link to Barry Schwartz! That pushed your story’s negative spin on consumer choice to the tipping point for me. Errr…past the tipping point?

Just in case anybody who happens to read this hasn’t seen Schwartz’s Ted talk… The Paradox of Choice. For sure it was an entertaining talk but he should really win an award for missing the point.

Nobody forces Schwartz to go shopping for jeans. He’s more than welcome to hire a personal shopper. So why doesn’t he? That’s the question that he can’t answer. Because if he did try and answer it then he’d completely annihilate his argument. Which generally isn’t the best strategy when you’re trying to sell a book.

In the private sector there’s clearly some demand for personal shoppers. But is there any demand for impersonal shoppers? Would Schwartz want to pay an impersonal shopper who spends his money on dresses? Probably not. Yet, this is exactly the system that we have in the public sector. But rather than allocate his intelligence to highlighting the problem with impersonal shoppers…. Schwartz prefers to attack the wide variety of options that we suffer from in the private sector.

Schwartz completely fails to grasp that supply diversity is merely a reflection of demand diversity. So attacking supply diversity is the same thing as attacking human diversity. Complaining about supply diversity is the same thing as complaining about human diversity.

Consumer choice sure beats the alternatives… which is why taxpayers should be free to choose where their taxes go.

If you get a chance you should check out this short animation video on Youtube… Beer and Biodiversity. I’m guessing that you haven’t already seen it… or else you probably would have linked to it in your story. But I could be wrong.