How Much Agency Do We really Have?

Don - August 4, 2007

It seems to me that everytime we choose we either limit future choices or we expand future choices. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like my choices are getting more limited. And I’ve noticed that the choices that others make effect me and limit my choices even more.

Let say my wife doesn’t work in the bridal store a particular day. That limits my choices.

Or the bank decides not to give me the loan I need to remodel and expand. That limits my choices.

Or some gang member comes by sprays graffiti all over our building. That limits my choices.

Some might say that those things that happen just give me a new set of choices to make, so I still have a wide open world of choices. Some would say that other’s actions as I’ve pointed out doesn’t change my agency at all, I still have agency and I can choose anything I want.

I feel that if another person’s choice effects me then that limits me. I have to deal with the consequences of their actions. If my wife doesn’t come to work then it limits what I can do. The work that she would have done doesn’t get done, or maybe I choose to do it and neglect something I would have chosen to do if she were there. I certainly can’t work with her, consult on something that comes up or assign something to her if she’s not there.

My feeling is if she does come to work then I have all the options open to me including those same options as if she were not there.

Same with the bank. No loan, I have to scramble with other options for financing, or not do the remodeling and expansion at all. If I get the loan, I still have the same options – I can scramble for other financing and use it if I choose, or I can still decide not to do the remodeling and expansion. Without the loan – limited choices, with the loan more choices.

I don’t know if I’m making sense, but I sure feel frustrated when choices others make effect me so much.

8 Comments »

  1. I see two types of actions that affect your choices; 1) Those done in a pure voluntary free market association – the bank, your wife, your customers – all these may ‘shun’ you (refuse the loan, not come to work, not buy your merchandise). I suggest your only moral option is to become a better salesman – offer more value in the exchange. 2) Those done in a forceful manner – gangs with their graffiti, and (although not mentioned in your blog) the biggest gang of all – the government with their regulations and taxes. Your options against gangs – those that engage in aggressive force – includes self-defense; an equal force to combat their evil.

    Both these reactions can consume your time and resources and hence alter your choices. But before you throw to big of a pity party remember your actions also change the choices of everyone with whom you interact. Your decision to not buy lunch at the corner deli might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and cause them to close. Your decision to close your store early one day might force a bride to pay more (at a competitor of course) causing hardship in her marriage.

    Be the one that adds value (karma?) to exchanges with others – make their choices easier, nicer, better and perhaps eventually you’ll stop worrying about your choices.

    Have a good day

    Comment by Daylan — August 4, 2007 @ 6:58 pm

  2. You always have a choice. You can choose between letting the fact that your wife won’t work in a bridal shop one particular day affect you or not. You can choose to let what others say bug you or you can choose not to. I can choose not to continue typing this response, but I choose to complete my comments. If someone is holding a gun to my head and attempting to “force” me to continue typing, I actually still have a choice. I can choose to continue typing, or I can choose to defy his threat, and make him make a choice. He then has a choice. Does he shoot me, or does he not?

    No one on this planet can “force” you to do anything without your choice. It is impossible.

    Comment by Dan — August 4, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

  3. Let me add an exception to my very absolute statement there. If someone drugs you wherein they force your abilities to choose to be hampered, then yes, they can actually force you to do something you did not choose to do. But I think we’re controlling for that, and focusing only on when you actually are in shape to choose.

    Comment by Dan — August 4, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  4. Obviously God wants us to learn how to deal with the limiting actions of others’ agency.

    Comment by Bret — August 4, 2007 @ 8:39 pm

  5. I’d extend it to the bigger picture. Absolute freedom of action is an illusion. It never happens.

    There are only two choices in life:

    Hearken to God’s will or not?

    Each of us is, in a sense, a small boat adrift in an ocean filled with powerful currents. The currents are too strong for us. Trying to change them on our own is like trying to navigate the ocean with a set of oars – you can row all day and night and still be pushed backwards.

    God offers us a sail and a favorable wind.

    You can either keep rowing, or you can raise sail and let God carry you to the far shore.

    But that’s really your only options.

    Comment by Seth R. — August 5, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

  6. bunch like nothing. a feel I of ,

    Comment by Alina — August 6, 2007 @ 5:21 am

  7. Life – how we live, where we live, what kind of influence we have on others, what kind of happiness we find for ourselves and so many other things too many to list – is all about the choices we make. Some people have many more hardships to face than others but ultimately the choices we all make in dealing with those hardships – or in dealing with good fortune – will determine the makeup of our lives.

    Comment by Lamonte — August 6, 2007 @ 5:46 am

  8. I certainly agree that we all have choice, no mater what. I gues I didn’t make my point clear enough, when other people make choice it can limit the choices I have. It isn’t an either – or choice, it’s the range of choices that become limited by other’s actions that effect me.

    I really don’t worry about it per se, but it does bug me a bit and it bugs me when people preach that we always have agency and infer meaning our choices are not limited.

    Comment by Don Clifton — August 6, 2007 @ 1:27 pm

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