Unintended Consequences

One of the unwanted features of any governmental system is the unfortunate occurrence of unintended consequences. In any system of governance that creates laws or regulations, there is no getting around the potential for a law or regulation having an application or a consequence that never was intended at the time it was crafted.

We are all familiar with situations like this – the small time offender getting a ten year jail sentence for stealing a candy bar because of a “three strikes” law, individuals having their property confiscated under drug laws for tangential involvement in a crime – sometimes just knowing the defendant is enough for an over-zealous DA, parents having their children taken by the state due to some imagined wrong or the “vigorous” application of a child protective law by an aggressive social worker – the papers have one of these situations just about every day.

There is a particularly onerous case over here in the UK now, where a woman visiting her ex-husband (an amicable divorce) had her children taken by the state due to the father nicking the face of his daughter during a hair cut and the school reporting him for abuse and neglect. Even though the mother and the children live in France, they were removed from both parents and the mother barred from returning to France until the case winds it’s way through the courts. In this case there was no prior evidence of any abuse our neglect, the decision is completely left to the discretion of the bureaucracy.

Unintended consequences. There is even a formal definition of the Law of Unintended Consequences:

The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it.

The concept of unintended consequences is one of the building blocks of economics. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” the most famous metaphor in social science, is an example of a positive unintended consequence. Smith maintained that each individual, seeking only his own gain, “is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention,” that end being the public interest. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, or the baker, that we expect our dinner,” Smith wrote, “but from regard to their own self interest.”

Most often, however, the law of unintended consequences illuminates the perverse unanticipated effects of legislation and regulation. In 1692 the English philosopher John Locke, a forerunner of modern economists, urged the defeat of a parliamentary bill designed to cut the maximum permissible rate of interest from 6 percent to 4 percent. Locke argued that instead of benefiting borrowers, as intended, it would hurt them. People would find ways to circumvent the law, with the costs of circumvention borne by borrowers. To the extent the law was obeyed, Locke concluded, the chief results would be less available credit and a redistribution of income away from “widows, orphans and all those who have their estates in money.”

The point is not to illustrate that laws are not a “one size fits all” proposition, rather that it is the pinnacle of contradiction that in our contemporary “democratic” societies on both sides of the pond that while we state that it is better that the guilty go free rather than one innocent be convicted, we establish a web of governance where the innocent are guaranteed to be snared. In America, we say that we are “innocent until proven guilty”, yet we deprive individuals of their liberty prior to a determination of guilt on a daily basis by putting restrictions on their property and their natural rights – and, yes, on their very life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Since this is a provable law, how can anyone believe that the application of more government to society is a good idea? How can a government established by the consent of the governed not be determined illegitimate if, instead of protecting our natural rights, seeks to infringe on them to the point of destruction of those rights?

Through the ignorance and apathy of the American public, we have allowed our national government to reach the point of illegitimacy.

Collectivists like Marx and Engels argued that there has and will always be tension between the bourgeois (business owners and capitalists) and the proletariat (the laborers) and that in a capitalist system, the power would always rest with the bourgeois because of the supposed “feudal” system that remained after capitalism became the order of the day as an economic system. Marx believed that his political philosophy, Marxism, was the necessary bridge between the socialism as practiced in his time of the industrial revolution and pure communism – or the total “equality” of what he called “the dictatorship of the proletariat”. If you are listening, you can hear echoes of Marx in the calls for “income equality”, “social justice” and “universal health care”. Marx is alive and well in our progressive tax system, in our bureaucratic regulatory schemes, in the cries of the 1% vs. the 99%, and the usurpation of constitutional rights by the Obama administration.

If you think that I am being paranoid to too harsh, please explain to me where Obama has the enumerated power to force Catholic health care concerns to support the distribution of birth control methods that are against their religious beliefs and failing that order private businesses to do it in their stead. The first position is a direct violation of the Constitution and the second is illegal.

The true communist believes that, once this pure “dictatorship” is achieved, all borders and government will be dissolved. You can also see this intent to dissolve our borders and end American sovereignty in the stance of the “progressives” toward illegal immigration and the prosecution of the War on Terrorism.

For those of you “progressives” reading this, please spare me the mock indignation. You are either pursuing Marxist goals by supporting the Obama administration and the Democrats or you are simply ignorant, a useful idiot with no concept or understanding of the founding principles of the country you live in.

There are two main problems with the theoretical goal of the true communists. The first is that communism is not a natural state of man. While man can choose to seek out others with common interests, man can and does exist independently of the collective. That is to say that he does not draw his identity from the collective, it draws it’s from him. That is the truth of the evolution of the human species, that the individual came first and the uniqueness of the individual in intellect, in drive and deed and in desire are the forces that have propelled the human race to supremacy on this planet.

Communism is a construct of man, just as governments are – they are not inventions of our Creator and as such are flawed and temporary. Don’t subscribe to a deity as the origin of our rights? Do this little exercise – for the moment, make the assumption that there is no one left on Earth but you – what could you do then? You could do anything you wished within the limits of your ability. There would be nothing but nature to govern your actions. That is the origin of natural rights that our freedom flows from.

To be free is the natural state of man, we surrender to the controls of government to facilitate things that we believe are necessary to foster a productive society for all – but even then, within the confines of our own property – those rules are muted. With the exception of things that we consider morally wrong, what is there to stop us from driving 90 mph on a road that we own when the legal highway speed may be 70? Nothing. This is also an illustration of how fundamental to freedom the concept of private ownership of property is.

The second fatal flaw is the means by which the transitional Marxists use to attempt to reach this Communist utopian state – government. Is it not counter-intuitive that they seek to abolish the very means of government by using government? How does Obama propose to create “equality”? He seeks to take more money and property from the upper economic class and redistribute it to the lower economic classes. He seeks to force compliance to a national health care system where some will pay the bill for all. He seeks to force a homosexuality and abortion on Americans with religious objections to “homogenize” society. The use of government to eventually eliminate government is nonsensical at best and illogical at the worst. Even back as far as John Locke’s day, it was recognized that governments are not prone to shrinking, they are self-perpetuating and prone to growth unless constrained.

Is it not clear that individual freedom depends on the subtraction of government, not the addition of it?

Socialism, Marxism and communism and the fallacious collectivist theories that they are all built on are not venues to create an egalitarian society, they are the very means by which free and equal societies are destroyed. To even contemplate the introduction of a program, policy or law that requires a limitation of one man’s free choice and liberty in a quest for “equality” is the very definition of unintended consequences.

8 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences

  1. Socialism, Marxism and communism and the fallacious collectivist theories that they are all built on are not venues to create an egalitarian society, they are the very means by which free and equal societies are destroyed. To even contemplate the introduction of a program, policy or law that requires a limitation of one man’s free choice and liberty is the very definition of unintended consequences.

    180 degree rule 🙂

    If you think that I am being paranoid to too harsh, please explain to me where Obama has the enumerated power to force Catholic health care concerns to support the distribution of birth control methods that are against their religious beliefs and failing that order private businesses to do it in their stead. The first position is a direct violation of the Constitution and the second is illegal.

    Might I suggest we address how the EXECUTIVE was able to acquire the ability to make law in the first place? They call it “regulation,” but there is no allowance for regulation in the Constitution. EVERYTHING that carries the weight of law is supposed to go through the Congress, but Congress has been steadily abdicating its authority to the Executive and Judiciary since Woodrow Wilson’s time.

    Nice essay, Utah. I like it 🙂

  2. You pose a conundrum Utah. As Liberals in the Classical sense, we want less government which should equate to more freedom. But at the same time, we also realize that we need government to maintain law and order. Unfortunately, as has been proven many times through the centuries, government always takes more power than most people would ordinarily want to give them.

    Government will incrementally usurp more and more power from the people, usually with the connivance of one particular group or another who imagine some kind of advantage over others. And what always happens, when government gets all the power is, even the people who first received the largess from the government find themselves in the same condition as everyone else.

    I hope this makes sense. 😉

    Mike G.

    • Mike,

      Doesn’t it come down to what our founders tried to tell us?

      “If the people are good, their leaders will be good; but if the people are corrupt, their leaders will be corrupt?”

      It took me some beating over the head before I got this through my thick skull, myself. I kept trying to blame this group or that, partially because I didn’t want to accept that we have fallen so far as a society. But Utah was largely responsible for getting me to finally accept that this is true: we get what we deserve as a nation.

      Looking back, our founders only needed 6 pages to govern a nation. How many pages are in the federal code now? I think they also told us that when this happens – our laws get to be so many we can’t even know them – we would have fallen under a tyranny.

      (Excuse me now, please, I have to go weep for my nation – again.)

      • Actually, I blame us, our parents and grand parents for the position we find ourselves in now. We slowly slipped away from the founding principles generation by generation. It was accelerated during the 30’s under FDR and gathered steam with only a brief respite during Reagan’s administration. And I will also say that Reagan made some mistakes…Iran/Contra being the main one.

        The “Compassionate Conservatism” of GHWB and after Clinton, his son, GWB only exacerbated an already tenuous situation.

        My opinion, so YMMV.

        • Thanks, and, I agree. By “us,” I meant the American People, and I take your words to mean pretty much the same thing. We are all to blame: past and present, and if we do not change, we will damn the future as well.

          Unfortunately, that brings us to another regrettable fact of history, and that is that, once a people has decayed to the state in which we now find ourselves, they either fall of their own immorality and corruption, or are restored by managing to make it through the crucible. Assuming we manage to face the crucible once more, I am not looking forward to the test as I have grave doubts as to our ability to survive this time.

  3. “We slowly slipped away from the founding principles generation by generation.” The only argument here (if you want to call it an argument) is that it did not take much time at all.

    This country will be 236 years old this year. That’s about ___ generations ago. For instance:

    My father was born in 1941, his father in 1911, his father 1881, his father 1856, and his father I believe was born in 1815. That’s but 5 generations ago. Not so long ago.

    But when a government seeks to assume personal responsibility for people’s lives, liberty gets tossed to the wayside. This government is looking to control it’s citizens by promising to “take care of them”. Soon I fear, no one will ever accept personal responsibility for their own lives … something our families did less than 5 generations ago.

  4. Pingback: Coerced Into a Contract « The Rio Norte Line

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