My Hope for a Post-Pandemic America

My hope for a post COVID-19 Pandemic America is that Americans will see restrictions on their freedoms as a blessing.

Allow me to explain my blasphemous words by listing some of the things that I most dislike:

  • Choosing between 50 entres at a restaurant
  • Choosing between 20 Obamacare plans
  • Choosing between 10,000 ETF’s to invest in
  • Choosing where to go on vacation

It doesn’t take an English speaker to see that the pattern is choice.

Every time I’m posed with a large number of options, I like most humans, am rankled by cognitive overload. The philosophy professor Chidi of The Good Place, who is bamboozled by any choice, is not a parody of the analytical mind. He is quintessentially human.

There are people who think they do me a service by asking such questions as, “Do you want the door open or closed?” when the weather is pleasant. Or, “Where do you want to eat?” Some even insist on asking when I am focused on a task. You have already given me what I do not want by posing the question.

As a result of frequent business travel, I am now a Platinum Elite rewards member at Marriott. Every time I check in, I am posed with the question, “Do you want a ‘gift of points’ or a free meal and drink?” It is my understanding that frequent participation in a rewards program is supposed to make me feel rewarded. I do not.

My fellow Americans, please understand that true freedom does not consist in having more and more options–situations that are truly difficult optimization problems in disguise–but having a space to improve oneself. I mean self-improvement in a broad sense. Creating works of lasting value (e.g. art, an organization, a child), cultivating fulfilling relationships, learning a skill, happiness. All these things make for a better person, and freedom promotes better people. True freedom does not clutter brain space.

So view the present restrictions under the Coronavirus pandemic as a gift. Your life has become simpler. Your freedom is enhanced. You need not concern yourself with which bar or community event you want to visit. Now you can read that book you’ve downloaded on your Kindle but haven’t found the time to read. Now you will be able to focus. You will read that book in one sitting, and it will be bliss.