Admit it: Most of us take a perverse pleasure in saying “I told you so,” even if we say it silently. Unfortunately, the world is filled with the consequences of actions for which the perils were sometimes evident and sometimes not. Here are a few examples:
- The War on Drugs has given rise to whole other economies, social orders and even military structures in the form of gangs and cartels. Apparently we didn’t learn that Prohibition produced Capone and his ilk.
- The Sexual Revolution was envisioned as enabling women to be independent of men. Instead, it has freed too many men of responsibility to women and children and created whole segments of society in which fatherlessness is considered normal.
- Mobility has made us free to live and work and play where we choose. The flip side is that we have fewer nearby familial ties to provide mutual help – financial, emotional or hands-on – in stressful times. We also have fewer loved ones close by with whom to celebrate when things go well.
- Since DDT was banned essentially worldwide, tens of millions of Africans, Asians and South Americans have died of malaria, a disease that DDT wiped out in the U.S.
- Government bailouts – for either industries or individuals – ease the immediate pain but increase the chance that the causative behavior will recur.
- Social Security has made it possible for people to ignore their duty to save for old age.
- Some researchers say laws requiring kids to wear helmets when they ride bikes has indeed meant fewer head injuries among bicyclists. Because some kids consider them uncool, however, those researchers suggest that fewer kids ride bikes, resulting in less overall health among youths.
- The benefits of seatbelts and airbags, says at least one researcher, can be offset by the tendency to drive less carefully when such equipment is in place.
- Kudzu, of course, is the classic unintended consequence. Imported first as an ornamental and then as an erosion control, it turns millions of acres of the South into a monocultural wasteland and has killed billions of dollars’ worth of timber.
The nice thing about unintended consequences is that sometimes they’re positive.
- It was many decades after Mr. Bayer introduced his pain reliever before we caught on that aspirin was good for cardiovascular health, too – and maybe even cancer prevention.
- Government gridlock and indecision mean Washington doesn’t get done everything it needs to, but they also mean Washington doesn’t get done as much of what it shouldn’t be doing anyway.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal