Are the choices provided by a market economy stressful? According to Prof. Mark Pennington, it can definitely be stressful to choose among several different options. In fact, Pennington himself is often overwhelmed by the choices provided to him in a modern supermarket.
This phenomena, called the paradox of choice, has often been used to make arguments in favor of government action on behalf of its citizens. However, these arguments overlook the flaws associated with government action.
For instance, if individual choices are stressful, it must be even more stressful for regulators and bureaucrats to make choices on behalf of millions of people. Moreover, even if it were assumed that bureaucrats and regulators were not stressed out by their decisions, they would lack the relevant knowledge of people’s personalities and preferences.
In a world with many choices, we must either shoulder the burden of making our own choices or shoulder the burden of knowing that other people are making decisions for us under a great deal of stress and insufficient knowledge.