A Libertarian With Too Much Freedom

Too much freedom? I never though I’d hear myself say those words. In the book “The Art of Choosing” the author tells us about her parents’ arranged marriage. For a long time, I considered arranged marriages to be a form of slavery. Except, as far as I can tell, it is voluntary. The  participants actually want it that way. Partly because that’s the way it has always been for their family. Partly because they wouldn’t know where to start looking if they were to search on their own. Partly because it’s what their parents want (which is often more important to them than what they individually want).

I can understand the appeal of having less choice. Choosing is exhausting! While it’s pleasant to choose when to brush my teeth, it would be much more convenient to have someone looking over my shoulder reminding me that I should brush twice daily. About once a week I get lazy, and against better judgment, choose to go to sleep without brushing. I know what’s best for me, but I choose against it. Why? Because I have conflicting interests. Occasionally a desire to sleep outweighs my desire to have clean, paper-white teeth.

What if I could build and program a robot to force me to do things? What if I programed the robot to calculate what I should eat, and force me to eat it? Or to optimize my workout routine and force me to do it? That would make getting fit so much easier. I wouldn’t have to worry about cheat days because I wouldn’t be allowed to cheat!

In the Odyssey, Odysseus tells his men to tie him to the mast as they sail past the mythical sirens. This allows him to hear the sirens’ song, without being able to jump overboard and die. He has conflicting interests, to live, but also to hear the sirens sing. By relinquishing power, eliminating options, removing choice, he’s able to achieve both.

In fact, this isn’t too different from what Netflix, Amazon, and Youtube do. You relinquish some power to choose what you watch or buy. Options are eliminated based on your interest. And your choice of what to watch next is a default “auto playing in 5 seconds.” As a result, you’re happier! You watch videos all the time. Hooray! If you had to choose what to watch next off an alphabetical list, you might never watch anything ever again! You’d be so overwhelmed that your desire to be entertained would be out weighed by your desire for simplicity.

I understand why bootlickers want government. Having someone make important decisions for you can be great. What age should I be allowed to start working? What age should I be allowed to retire? Should I put money away for retirement? Should I work for $4/hr? Should I buy a brick of cocaine? All of these questions and more are deferred to the government. I suppose it’s not too different from the robot I made earlier in this post. The government is, supposedly, made by the people and for the people. But who am I to build a robot? There are professional robot makers out there. I would probably just trust these robot makers in the same way that bootlickers trust their government officials.

I suppose I’ll just have to make those robots in order to choose less, choose better, and make the government obsolete.

What do you think? Right? Wrong? Pure poppycock?