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Too much of a good thing

Choice is the essence of modern democracy. But do we have as much as we imagine? Can more choice mean less? David Lipsey assesses the costs and limits of choice in consumption and welfare

By David Lipsey   January 1997

At any time, in any culture there are some beliefs which are simply beyond challenge. In our own time, in our own culture, one such is the supremacy of individual choice.

The concept is woven into the fabric of political discourse. It underlies the universal acceptance, by all serious parties, of market forces. It marks taboo areas into which none dare stray: choice in health (the right to buy your way out of the public sector); choice in education (ditto for schools); choice in consumption (no more tax-and-spend). It is an unexamined article of faith.

That it should be so…

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