One of reasons I like Austrian economics stems from its objectivity. Each of us values things differently, and we makes choices and trade-offs based on our individual and unique preferences. Because we live in a world of scarce resources (yes, even Bill Gates makes trade-offs), we constantly choose between competing alternatives. And in a capitalist society, we have lots of choices.
Austrian economics refrains from assigning values of “right” or “wrong” to individual decisions. To impose my value system upon another violates the consumer sovereignty of the individual. Moreover, only the individual acting in his own self-interest can make the best choice to satisfy his own unique preferences at that particular instant. To suggest otherwise necessarily violates his consumer sovereignty.
As an example, suppose my neighbor enjoys dining out, and frequently spends hundreds of dollars on expensive meals at fine restaurants. Simply because my neighbor spends a lot of money on dining out doesn’t mean he’s making bad choices. He’s simply making a choice. He obviously places extraordinary value on the dining experience. I’m happy for him, and I quietly acknowledge that he’s making trade-offs. Expensive meals mean other things won’t get accomplished. I may scoff at forking out that kind of money for food, but he has made the best decision for himself. Why should I impose my values on him and vice versa? He is free to choose, and I celebrate that we live in a society with numerous choices.
What I refuse to do, though, is criticize him or subjectively label his decisions. It would be easy for me (some might even say appropriate) to criticize his choice and substitute my own value system in place of his. I could easily offer up a number of alternatives for the money spent on food, but those are my preferences, not his. What right do I claim to have to say he made a bad choice? None. Likewise, I expect him to refrain from labeling my choices, and to accept them as that: choices among competing alternatives.
I believe the more folks come to accept and ascribe to this way of thinking, the more we can all go about enjoying the many choices we make.