Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Name needed: “too much of a good thing”

with 4 comments

I’m seeking the word that describes the drawbacks/evils of having too much of a good thing, brought about by reading this interesting article on the evils of too much efficiency in economic transactions. The authors provide examples of the general phenomenon:

. . . So whereas some efficiency is good, more efficiency may not be better. The psychologist Adam Grant and I published an article last year suggesting that the “too much of a good thing” phenomenon may be more general than commonly thought. Some choice is liberating; too much choice is paralyzing. Some motivation produces excellent performance; too much motivation leads to folding under pressure.

Finding the right amount of each of these things — what Aristotle called the “mean” — is the real challenge we face, both as individuals and as a society. In my view, the real criticism of capitalism that is implied by the criticism of Mr. Romney and Bain is that in worshiping efficiency so single-mindedly, it has ignored the possibility that too much efficiency — too little friction — might be a bad thing.

Finding the mean isn’t easy, even when we try to. It is sometimes said that the only way to figure out how much is enough is by experiencing too much. But the challenge is even greater when we’re talking about companies, because companies aren’t even trying to find the mean.

For an individual company and its shareholders, there is no such thing as too much efficiency. The price of too much efficiency is not paid by the company. It is what economists call a negative externality, paid by the people who lose their jobs and the communities that suffer from job loss. Thus, we can’t expect the free market to find the level of efficiency that keeps firms competitive, provides quality goods at affordable prices and sustains workers and their communities. If we are to find the balance, we must consider stakeholders and not just shareholders. Companies by themselves won’t do this. Sensible regulation might. . .

The whole article is worth reading, but my question now is: What is the word for “too much of a good thing”?—specifically, for the harm that results from having/doing too much of something that, done more moderately, is quite good?

UPDATE: I knew it would come to me: “plethora” is the word.

UPDATE 2: “Surfeit” would also serve.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2012 at 9:28 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

4 Responses

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  1. debauchery

    Examples of DEBAUCHERY

    He later regretted the debauchery of his youth.
    He recalled the evening’s debaucheries with regret.
    Like St. Augustine carousing his student days away in fourth-century Carthage, [Thomas] Merton had succumbed to such physical and intellectual debaucheries as New York offered a Columbia undergraduate in the 1930’s: wine, women and some Communist fellow-traveling. —Mark Silk, New York Times Book Review, 30 Mar. 1986


    21 February 2012 at 10:48 am

  2. “Debauchery” covers well the realm of sensual pleasures and clearly identifies the opposite vice from Puritanical disdain. It’s a bit of a stretch to use the term (as Mark Silk does) to cover intellectual over-indulgence, a tricky area in general.

    Things like “choices” and “motivation” are even further afield, though the paralyzing effect of too many choices is well documented.


    21 February 2012 at 11:24 am

  3. “Surfeit’ was the first to spring to my mind.


    2 March 2012 at 12:50 am

  4. That’s exactly the word for which I was looking. Many thanks.


    2 March 2012 at 2:05 am

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