The Law of Unintended Consequences refers to the tendency of our actions to have outcomes other than our intentions and often at odds to our desires. Anti-skid brakes, seat belts, airbags all save lives… but people tend to drive a bit more at the edge because of them, undercutting some of the benefit. Florescent lights and LED are more energy efficient… and folks tend to leave the lights on longer. The war on drugs was of limited effectiveness… and left a generation of minorities with criminal records. Agent Orange may have defoliated jungles in Vietnam, perhaps saving some American lives at the time… and left a legacy of health issues for many vets, cutting short many lives.

We live in a VERY complex, dynamic world where it is generally not possible to “merely do just one thing”. As the naturalist John Muir said: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”. Many factors, some obvious, others far less so, interact in ways we often do not fully understand.  Unfortunately, in our human pride, we frequently are unaware of how little we truly do understand. Most unintended consequences are just unanticipated consequences, the natural outcome of lazy thinking or the Dunning Krugman effect when folk are too ignorant to be able to comprehend the extent of their ignorance. As the saying goes, the trouble with the world is that while the wise have doubts, the fools are certain.

Closing Quotes:

“There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything.” – Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

“Any endeavor has unintended consequences. Any ill-conceived endeavor has more.” – Stephen Tobolowsky, The Dangerous Animals Club

“Every government intervention [in the marketplace] creates unintended consequences, which lead to calls for further government interventions.” – Ludwig von Mises, 1881-1973

“The evil in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” – Albert Camus, 1913-1960, Noble Prize for Literature at age 44, 2nd youngest ever

As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier