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. Similarly, other topics such as euthanasia, contraception and same-sex marriage 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 and opposed with reference to "freedom of choice".
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. It includes the freedom to engage in employment available to them.
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.
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.
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.
The axiomatic-deductive approach has been used to address the issue of measuring the amount of freedom of choice (FoC) an individual enjoys. In a 1990 paper, Prasanta K. Pattanaik and Yongsheng Xu presented three conditions that a measurement of FoC should satisfy:
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, or rejecting the third axiom.
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.
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". 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. Schwarts had written a book and given speeches criticizing the excess of options in modern society, though acknowledging that "some choice is better than none".
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
As noted, there are two aspects of free choice: opportunity to choose and autonomy to choose.
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'.
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.
First, the ban would restrict food freedom of choice.
an explication of freedom of choice should reject the third axiom