The Paradox of Choice
This discusses fully an attribution bias I come across frequently when discussing poor communities: a focus on personal responsibility and choice as the main factors in controlling events.
Specifically, I recall a friend who, in response to a 4/20 post about marijuana and cultural acceptance, explained that he thought marijuana was a “luxury” for poor people, and shouldn’t be consumed for that reason (basically, a waste of limited resources argument).
I won’t touch upon the irony that this person, just as poor, participates in technical analysis investing, one of the easiest to prove wastes of limited resources.
But, the video makes clear the bias in my friend’s argument. The anxiety of “choice” is internalized by a lot of people. They feel a pressure to “make the right choice” and feel that others are judging the choices they make (sorta explains my frustration with responses to the student debt crisis that amount to “you should have chosen a more lucrative major”). This anxiety can be numbing, and within a culture that pressures you to consume while at the same time admonishing you for poor consumption choices, it can get pretty toxic.
You end up with folks, mentally enslaved as I like to put it, advocating that poverty is a function of poor choices. Why not, after all these same people have internalized that everything bad happening to them must be a function of their own poor choices in a “consume, but beware” climate.
Little consideration is given to the larger complexes involved in how these events turn out. Poverty, and the poor, become a subclass that don’t yet “deserve” to have nice things and have no room for leisure: after all, they must remain in the perpetual hustle to become self-made successes, a reflection of our perpetual anxiety about choices and correlating events.
Meanwhile, remember that numbing anxiety about choice? It prevents us from becoming that one thing that might break the system: independent entrepreneurs seeking to critique and improve our society. Instead, we conform and worry.