Freedom of choice describes an individual's opportunity and autonomy to perform an action selected from at least two available options, unconstrained by external parties.[1]

In politics

In the abortion debate, for example, the term "freedom of choice" may emerge in defense of the position that a woman has a right to determine whether she will proceed with or terminate a pregnancy.[2][3][4] Similarly, other topics such as euthanasia,[5] vaccination, contraception,[6] and same-sex marriage[7] are sometimes discussed in terms of an assumed individual right of "freedom of choice". Some social issues, for example the New York "Soda Ban" have been both defended[8] and opposed,[9] with reference to "freedom of choice".

In economics

The freedom of choice on which brand and flavor of soda to buy is related to market competition

In microeconomics, freedom of choice is the freedom of economic agents to allocate their resources as they see fit, among the options (such as goods, services, or assets) that are available to them.[10][11] It includes the freedom to engage in employment available to them.[12]

Ratner et al., in 2008, cited the literature on libertarian paternalism which states that consumers do not always act in their own best interests. They attribute this phenomenon to factors such as emotion, cognitive limitations and biases, and incomplete information which they state may be remedied by various proposed interventions. They discuss providing consumers with information and decision tools, organizing and restricting their market options, and tapping emotions and managing expectations. Each of these, they state, could improve consumers' ability to choose.[13]

However, economic freedom to choose ultimately depends upon market competition, since buyers' available options are usually the result of various factors controlled by sellers, such as overall quality of a product or a service and advertisement. In the event that a monopoly exists, the consumer no longer has the freedom to choose to buy from a different producer. As Friedrich Hayek pointed out:

Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that, if one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another. But if we face a monopolist we are at his absolute mercy.

— Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, "Can planning free us from care?"[14]

As exemplified in the above quote, libertarian thinkers are often strong advocates for increasing freedom of choice. One example of this is Milton Friedman's Free to Choose book and TV series.

There is no consensus as to whether an increase in economic freedom of choice leads to an increase in happiness. In one study, the Heritage Foundation's 2011 Index of Economic Freedom report showed a strong correlation between its Index of Economic Freedom and happiness in a country.[15]

Measuring freedom of choice

The axiomatic-deductive approach found in game theory has been used to address the issue of measuring the amount of freedom of choice (FoC) an individual enjoys.[16] In a 1990 paper,[17][18] Prasanta K. Pattanaik and Yongsheng Xu presented three conditions that a measurement of FoC should satisfy:

  1. Indifference between no-choice situations. Having only one option amounts to the same FoC, no matter what the option is.
  2. Strict monotonicity. Having two distinct options x and y amounts to more FoC than having only the option x.
  3. Independence. If a situation A has more FoC than B, by adding a new option x to both (not contained in A or B), A will still have more FoC than B.

They proved that the cardinality is the only measurement that satisfies these axioms, what they observed to be counter-intuitive and suggestive that one or more axioms should be reformulated. They illustrated this with the example of the option set "to travel by train" or "to travel by car", that should yield more FoC than the option set "to travel by red car" or "to travel by blue car". Some suggestions have been made to solve this problem, by reformulating the axioms, usually including concepts of preferences,[19][20][21] or rejecting the third axiom.[22]

Relationship with happiness

A 2006 study by Simona Botti and Ann L. McGill showed that, when subjects were presented with differentiated options and had the freedom to choose between them, their choice enhanced their satisfaction with positive and dissatisfaction with negative outcomes, relative to nonchoosers.[23]

A 2010 study by Hazel Rose Markus and Barry Schwartz compiled a list of experiments about freedom of choice and argued that "too much choice can produce a paralyzing uncertainty, depression, and selfishness".[24] Schwartz argues that people frequently experience regret due to opportunity costs for not making an optimal decision and that, in some scenarios, people's overall satisfaction are sometimes higher when a difficult decision is made by another person rather than by themselves, even when the other person's choice is worse. Schwartz had written a book and given speeches criticizing the excess of options in modern society, though acknowledging that "some choice is better than none".[25][26]

See also


  1. ^ Sebastiano Bavetta; Pietro Navarra (2011). "5". Index of Economic Freedom (Report). The Heritage Foundation. p. 65. Retrieved February 12, 2013. As noted, there are two aspects of free choice: opportunity to choose and autonomy to choose.a href=“[./Https://]
  2. ^ "BBC – Arguments in favour of abortion". Retrieved February 12, 2013. This leads some people to claim is that it is unethical to ban abortion because doing so denies freedom of choice to women and forces 'the unwilling to bear the unwanted'.
  3. ^ "Freedom of Choice Act – H.R.1964". Archived from the original on January 25, 2016. Retrieved February 13, 2013. Freedom of Choice Act – Declares that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to: (1) bear a child; (2) terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or (3) terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect her life or her health.
  4. ^ Susan Smalley (January 10, 2008). "Eggs And Abortion: Freedom Of Choice". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  5. ^ "Euthanasia and assisted suicide – Arguments". NHS. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  6. ^ Serfaty, D. (1999). "Guaranteeing freedom of choice in matters of contraception and abortion in Europe: Some personal remarks". The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care. 4 (4): 237–245. doi:10.3109/13625189909071344. PMID 10817094.
  7. ^ Menachem Rosensaft (January 15, 2009). "Even Same-Sex Marriage Is a Basic Civil Right". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  8. ^ Lauren Hunter; Kristin Van Busum (September 21, 2012). "Soda "Ban" May Actually Increase Freedom of Choice". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  9. ^ Baylen Linnekin (21 July 2012). "The Fizzy Math Behind Bloomberg's Soda Ban". Retrieved February 12, 2013. First, the ban would restrict food freedom of choice.
  10. ^ Hall, Robert E.; Lieberman, Marc (2009). Microeconomics: Principles & Applications. Cengage Learning. p. 42. ISBN 978-1439038970. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  11. ^ Pagoso, Cristobal M.; Dinio, Rosemary P.; Villasis, George A. (1994). Introductory Microeconomics. Rex Bookstore, Inc. p. 15. ISBN 978-9712315404. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  12. ^ "Quizlet Microeconomics, Chapter 04 – The Market System". Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  13. ^ Ratner, R. K.; Soman, D.; Zauberman, G.; Ariely, D.; Carmon, Z.; Keller, P. A.; Kim, B. K.; Lin, F.; Malkoc, S.; Small, D. A.; Wertenbroch, K. (2008). "How behavioral decision research can enhance consumer welfare: From freedom of choice to paternalistic intervention". Marketing Letters. 19 (3–4): 383. doi:10.1007/s11002-008-9044-3. S2CID 5880506.
  14. ^ Hayek, Friedrich (1994). The Road to Serfdom. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226320618. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  15. ^ Sebastiano Bavetta; Pietro Navarra (2011). "5". Index of Economic Freedom (Report). The Heritage Foundation. pp. 61–68. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  16. ^ Dowding, Keith; van Hees, Martin (2009). "Chapter 15 – Freedom of Choice" (PDF). Oxford Handbook of Individual and Social Choice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 374–392. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 22, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  17. ^ Pattanaik, Prasanta K.; Xu, Yongsheng (1990). "On ranking opportunity sets in terms of freedom of choice". Recherches Économiques de Louvain / Louvain Economic Review. Department of Economics, Universite Catholique de Louvain via JSTOR. 56 (3–4): 383–390. doi:10.1017/S0770451800043955. JSTOR 40723933. S2CID 153418558.
  18. ^ Xu, Yongsheng (February 2004). "On ranking linear budget sets in terms of freedom of choice". Social Choice and Welfare. 22 (1): 281–289. doi:10.1007/s00355-003-0287-x. S2CID 26796101.
  19. ^ Sen, Amartya (October 1991). "Welfare, preference and freedom". Journal of Econometrics. 50 (1–2): 15–29. doi:10.1016/0304-4076(91)90087-T.
  20. ^ Pattanaik, Prasanta K.; Xu, Yongsheng (April 1998). "On preference and freedom". Theory and Decision. 44 (2): 173–198. doi:10.1023/A:1004924211553. S2CID 117801220.
  21. ^ Sugden, Robert (October 1998). "The metric of opportunity". Economics and Philosophy. 14 (2): 307–337. doi:10.1017/S0266267100003874. S2CID 154300347.
  22. ^ Carter, Ian (February 2004). "Choice, freedom, and freedom of choice". Social Choice and Welfare. 22 (1): 61–81. doi:10.1007/s00355-003-0277-z. S2CID 32673348. an explication of freedom of choice should reject the third axiom [...] A person has freedom of choice iff she lacks constraints on the reasoned selection and performance of one or more of the items on an action-menu." and "(...) where a selection is necessarily made from a set of items greater than one
  23. ^ Botti, Simona; McGill, Ann L. (2006). "When Choosing is Not Deciding: The Effect Of Perceived Responsibility on Satisfaction". Journal of Consumer Research. 33 (2): 211–219. doi:10.1086/506302. S2CID 145266845. SSRN 1516287.
  24. ^ Markus, H. R.; Schwartz, B. (2010). "Does Choice Mean Freedom and Well‐Being?". Journal of Consumer Research. 37 (2): 344. doi:10.1086/651242. S2CID 15205215.
  25. ^ Schwartz, Barry (2005). The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. Harper Perennial. p. 304. ISBN 978-0060005696. S.a. The Paradox of Choice
  26. ^ Schwartz, Barry (July 2005). "The paradox of choice". Talk. TED. Retrieved February 12, 2013.