Sunday, February 26, 2006

Are choices always good?

Choice isn't always wonderful. What about Sophie's Choice? If you were sitting in a room with a bunch of friends, a guy with a gun is going to shoot one of them. In one scenario, he forces you to choose one. In another, it's decided randomly. While technically, the first is the best choice because you can choose the "worst friend", it creates far more guilt.

There are many scenarios where compulsion may be the best for everyone. Unfortunately it doesn't really work so well if people are democratically electing against it - if people won't do something, chances are they won't vote for the Government to force them to do it either. But compulsion can have a number of effects that even assuming rationality, may be of benefit. For instance, if school was not compulsory, or the leaving age was far lower, peer pressure may encourage students to drop out, or be distracted by the possibility. If everyone is (even grudgingly) held in, this effect is far less significant. Going to school may be "uncool" and may be of tremendous influence to someone who really is leaning towards staying, but if there's no choice, the others will be still be sticking around and not mentioning it either.

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