Joe Cool / The New Inquiry


TODAY’S consumerism is riddled with elaborate and often meaningless choices: Which brand of pasta should you buy? Would that be best with Ragu, Amy’s Organic, or Muir Glen marinara sauce? Should that be accompanied by Kraft or DiGiorno preshredded parmesan? Who cares.

As psychologist Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less argues, too much consumer choice can be demotivating rather than empowering or exciting — the direct opposite of what the core values of mainstream American consumerism would lead you to expect. Choice, Schwartz explains, “enables us to control our destinies and to come close to getting exactly what we want out of any situation. Choice is essential to autonomy, which is absolutely fundamental to well-being.” But the “fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.” More choice comes with a cost: a haunting fear that we will choose wrong. Clinging to all the choices means we never seem to make any. Anxiety never gives way to clarity. Is this what it means to live your best life? Oprah would never agree with that.

read the full essay on The New Inquiry

press for “Joe Cool”:

The Editors, “Blackflix and Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing,” The Atlantic, March 5, 2016.