Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Meme: Unintended Consequences and Chaos Theory
From the Library of Economics and Liberty:
by Rob Norton
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 John Locke, the English philosopher and 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."
- Technorati , Google, Wikipedia.
- GeoPoliticalReview: The Law of Unintended Consequences
- The Car Tax & the Law of Unintended Consequences
- Traffic Cameras and Unintended Consequences
- Hariri's murder, however, has triggered the law of unintended consequences.
- Sarbanes-Oxley's Unintended Consequences for IPO Market
- One more paradox in a world of unintended consequences...
- Exploring the law of unintended consequences
- Government efforts at benevolence always backfire. Inevitably, unintended consequences overwhelm the short-term and narrow benefits of authoritarian programs designed to make the economic system fair, the people morally better, and the world safe for democracy.
- The Street Finds its Own Use for the Law of Unintended Consequences
- Unintended Consequences: Five Years under the DMCA
- "Law of Unintended Consequences"
by John Dowdell on Monday, January 24th, 2005 @ 03:39PM
I've seen a lot of linking on that phrase this week, but I'm not certain whether everyone understands that this comes out of the work of FA Hayek, who was influenced by both the economic thinking of Adam Smith and the biological thinking of Gregor Mendel.
Instead of a "can't see two steps ahead" model, I've been using a model of "tries to apply mechanical solutions to biological problems".
Organic environments adapt, while mechanical constructions just react... a car doesn't care if you turn left, where a group of people might.
- Those Unintended Consequences
- Unintended Consequences
Pro-Handgun Experts Prove That Handguns Are a Dangerous Choice for Self-Defense
- The Unintended Consequences of E-Cash
- Unintended consequences
- How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet
- Law of Unintended Consequences, also here.
- Look at digital video recorders. They were initially marketed as a convenient way to time-shift your television viewing. But with the increase in advertising minutes per hour (to 25% of your viewing time), TiVo's big attraction became the ability to skip over all the ads. The unintended consequence of the broadcasters' decision to increase the number of ad-minutes was that it drove viewers to find ways of avoiding ads altogether.
- John Ross even has a FAQ about Unintended Consequences.
- Unintended Consequences
"War follows it's own logic." Not sure who said that but it sure seems applicable to Iraq.
- The Unintended Consequences of War
by Pat Buchanan
Rarely do wars, once begun, work out as anticipated. As 1898 began, William McKinley could not have dreamed the year would end with America annexing the Philippines.
- It can be banal, or important.
- "Some neoconservatives these days argue big government is OK so long as it is conservative big government representing values in which they believe. Big government is not OK. Every inch the government grows, the same inch is taken from the liberties of the people, starting with the basic liberty of spending your own money the way you choose rather than the way the government chooses to spend it for you. Massive programs inevitably have unintended consequences; government, though necessary for many purposes, is no more a precision instrument for constructive social change than a sledgehammer is for brain surgery." --Jay Ambrose
- Unintended consequences: DVRs & the death of broadcast tv, HDTV and massive hard drives Mercury News | 03/10/2004 | Hitachi unveils massive drive for digital media
- The law of unintended consequences appears to be alive and well in Germany, as detailed in this article: 'If you don't take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits'
- The Law Of Unintended Consequences
The Parents Television Council is a peculiarly American creature that we Europeans can’t really understand, Europe being home to Italian TV and all.
- As compared to the status quo, this proposal might indeed be superior – and it’s certainly better than adopting a single-payer system. That said, some potentially severe unintended consequences could result from mandatory health insurance.
- One question that this article raises is the unintended consequences of our acts of communication. Usually we speak or type in order to get some point across. And most often we are trying to get that point across in order to get some sort of reply or response in return. Is there any way of guarding against our messages being used in ways that we did not intend? Or do you think that every act of communication creates the opportunity for our messages to be used against us?
Summing upWhat exactly are unintended consequences? They are ironic. Certainly that is part of their appeal. At the core, they are a byproduct of complex systems. As the world becomes more automated, more complex, more legalistic, more prescriptive, more dogmatic, more populous, more confusing, full of more choices restrictions of choice, so every choice made will inevitably have unintended consequences. Think of the butterfly effect. A butterfly's wings flapping in China could have environmental effects that lead to a drought that causes a famine in Egypt. Chaos Theory is the trendiest of popular, post-modernist theories. Now the reason why the meme is spreading becomes apparent.
The danger of Chaos Theory is that if taken too far, it can lead people to think that their actions have no logical relation to the consequences of their actions. That way leads to nihilism and sociopathy. A much better way to view Chaos Theory is as a warning to always think at least two moves ahead.