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More choices v. better things

I have probably told this story before, but a friend of mine once said—while we stood in the pen and pencil aisle at an office supply big-box store, looking at the wall of hundreds of different pens and pencils—"I don’t want more choices, I want better things.“

While that statement was tossed out casually in a moment of inconsequential frustration, it has stuck with me over the years. I have found myself coming back to it pretty regularly.

We are told that how this is all supposed to work is that having more choices leads to having better things. That can mean a few different things.

Specially, having a bunch of choices means I am more likely to find a solution that works best for me. If there are a bunch of different restaurants in town, I can pick the one that has the sort of menu, service, and atmosphere that work best for me. If there is only one restaurant in town, that’s the one I have to go to even if every item on the menu has terrible, terrible beets in it.

More broadly, the competition among all the different offerings is supposed to make them all better. The restaurant that constantly serves beets will go out of business or remove the beets from its menu if hungry diners have other options to choose from, because beets are disgusting.

What I sometimes find myself thinking, though, is that we tend to get stuck on the “more choices” part and lose sight of the “better things” outcome, which is what I think we are all actually looking for.

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