For many of us the modern world seems to offer an ever-increasing amount of choice.
Satellite television offers hundreds of channels; internet retailers offer millions of goods; and even something as basic as milk can be found in dozens of varieties on supermarket shelves. Choice is good, so conventional wisdom goes, and people need to take responsibility for their choices. However, as we increasingly discover, conventional wisdom often leaves much to be desired. In The Myth of Choice, Kent Greenfield draws on his own field of law, as well as a wide range of research in the social sciences, to explore the reasons why people make the choices they do. He shows that choices are often far more limited than we realise. As well as financial considerations and personal desires, we are influenced by everything from the culture in which we live to our inbuilt tendency to follow orders. We are far from the rational actors upon which so much of law and society is based.
As may be expected from such a book, Greenfield finishes with some suggestions of how we may improve our ability to make choices. Although, to my mind, Greenfield would have benefitted from greater personal attention to his final suggestion - “cultivate an awareness of cultural influences” - otherwise a reader could leave with the mistaken impression that only progressive American liberals are making rational decisions. But then again, as Greenfield mentions, we could use some intellectual empathy; and maybe I am being overly harsh.