Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Too Many Choices

There's that famous scene in that sorta dumb Robin Williams movie "Moscow by the Hudson" where the Russian defector freaks out in the supermarket due to being overwhelmed by the volume of coffee choices.

I think we can handle the coffee choices. You pick one or the other, maybe it's not so good, maybe it's the wrong grind, whatever. Life goes on. But combine "too many choices" with "possible expensive consequences" and "possible massive amounts of time dealing with consequences in part due to the complete lack of customer service" and life gets pretty miserable. Airline travel can be like that. Your cell phone contract. Back in the old days, your long distance phone company choice. Your cable company. Your electricity provider choice. Renting a car. All kinds of things where pushing the wrong button or making the wrong irreversible choice or getting stuck in traffic or, of course, just having the company try to screw you because why not.

All of these things are horrible, and while public policy should be enacted to fix some of these interactions with private companies, public policy also should not imitate their worst practices. Keep it simple. Stop the eligibility hurdles. If you want to provide "free college" just provide it.