Worth remembering

The Foundation for Economic Education’s Sheldon Richman once said that advocating policies when you don’t understand their unintended consequences is “the intellectual equivalent of drunk driving.”   If you’re advocating price controls and don’t understand what the laws of supply and demand have to say about your proposal, you aren’t courageous or compassionate.  You’re dangerous.

Art Carden.

Yes, you really do need to work through the effects of your proposals before you insist that everyone adopts them. For example, if workers carry the burden of corporation tax then insisting that we raise corporation tax to make the rich pay more ain\’t gonna work, is it?

Or if rent control reduces the number of affordable rental homes, we might not want to introduce rent control to increase the number of affordable rental homes.

Or….well, add in your faourite politically inspired nonsense in the comments. And don\’t restrict yourself to lefty idiocy: there\’s enough political idiocy for every tribe to get some blame.

9 thoughts on “Worth remembering”

  1. You are assuming the Left wish to actually help poor people, rather than look as if they are helping poor people. With the Left, if the aim is noble, any unintended consequences can be ignored as ‘we meant well’.

  2. “With the Left, if the aim is noble, any unintended consequences can be ignored”

    The intended ends justify the means.

  3. The venue: Latin America.

    The objective: Save lives – reduce or eliminate the number of abortions.

    The policy: Make abortion illegal.

    The spanner in the works: Some of the unwanted babies who would otherwise have been aborted grow up in situations where they are more likely to have unprotected sex and conceive an unwanted child. Some of the abortions that are performed result in deaths of both mother and child. Infanticide and child trafficking both rise as a way of dealing with unwanted children. Unwanted pregnancies become harder to conceal from parents and husbands.

    The result: More dead babies, more dead girls, more suicides, more domestic murders.

    The venue: New Zealand.

    The objective: Stop workers from getting drunk after work.

    The policy: Force pubs to close at 6 pm.

    The spanner in the works: Workers still drink after work, but feel constrained by the limited time available. They cast aside conversation, food, games and all other accoutrements of pub life in favour of drinking as much booze as possible as quickly as possible.

    The result: Workers staggering (and driving) home vastly more drunk than they would otherwise have been. Continue to get drunker as bloated, swollen stomach slowly absorbs backlog of alcohol. Domestic violence endemic as pissed blokes get home to a bit of lip. Pub culture eradicated in favour of soulless beer barns. Good beer impossible to find under weight of cheap, not too disgusting mass-produced lager.

    Tim adds: The “six o’clock swill” was, I thought, parts of Oz?

  4. “Oh, we can’t have geoengineering because of the possible unintended consequences. Meanwhile, here is my green jobs-n-investment plan to restructure all society, with no unintended consequences.”

  5. Peter, both Oz and NZ had it. Started during WWI. Finished at different times ranging from Tasmania in 1937, NSW 1955, with various other states + NZ abolishing it around mid-60s.

    Had the intention of getting men home sober to the family but often had the opposite effect. Am not old enough to remember it personally.

    I think good old Ritchie is on record saying that the state ‘tolerates’ the market, as if it has the power to stop supply and demand in its tracks if it wanted to. See here:
    http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2011/07/07/standing-up-with-a-tory-against-the-far-right/

    The state no more tolerates supply and demand than it tolerates gravity, or the rising sun.

  6. “The state no more tolerates supply and demand than it tolerates gravity, or the rising sun.”

    It’s funny to see the lefties complaining the something must be done about Libor or the ratings agencies or the level of the FTSE, as if one can by fiat mandate the value of a mathematical equation. Idiots.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    Matthew – “The result: More dead babies, more dead girls, more suicides, more domestic murders.”

    You assume that a ban on abortion does not change behaviour. It obviously does. It least we can trivially see that in Britain legalising it has changed behaviour. You make risky activities less risky and people do more of them. The abortion rate in Britain is much higher than it was when abortion first became legal. It is unlikely that anywhere near as many illegal abortions took place the year before the ban was lifted as legal ones did the year after. Risky behaviours have increased.

    As far as abortion goes, the evidence is simply undeniable – legalising abortion means more dead babies (for some definition of baby). The naively good intentions were among those who supported ending the ban.

  8. So Much For Subtlety

    Kay Tie – “It’s funny to see the lefties complaining the something must be done about Libor or the ratings agencies or the level of the FTSE, as if one can by fiat mandate the value of a mathematical equation. Idiots.”

    I think the Left has comprehensively proven that they can influence the Libor, or the views of the ratings agencies and even the level of the FTSE.

    Just not the way they or we would like.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *