Sunday, February 26, 2006

Too many ironies

I recall encountering some former east Germans while in Leipzig, three years ago, entering into an interesting conversation with them, asking the inevitable question about their impressions of life before and after 1989, and being bemused when they brought up that they now have "too many choices."

Then there is Barry Schwartz and co-authors, who ask (and answer) "Is Freedom Just Another Word for Many Things to Buy? ... That depends on your class status." in today's NY Times Magazine.

Yikes! I have no idea what the right number of choices is. And I have no idea who would decide. The authors do not even address these pesky questions.

What the authors do think about is class and status. But the most magnificent achievement of modern America is that class and status matter less than ever and less than anywhere. People expect to move between strata and many do.

Our borders and entry points continue to be magnets. And I have never seen any studies of large-scale migrations that conclude that, all things considered, the migrants made a dumb mistake.

It is not about too many choices. It appears to be about too many ironies when smart people can be so dim.