Five more examples of unintended consequences.  The problem? People don’t always do what you tell them. They often do something totally different from what you expected. (Cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

Cracked describes 5 Laws That Made Senses on Paper (And Disasters in Reality). (Caution, some naughty words.) These examples are from government.  My three favorites are how to:

  • increase number of guns on the street
  • increase number of cobras on the loose
  • increase pollution from cars

Gun buybacks increase number of guns on the street. Because such program don’t look at the value of weapons bought back, the process can provide a far above market value price. That provides liquidity that can be used to buy something else, like groceries. Or drugs. Or a higher quality. Or a legal gun. One cited study showed buyback programs increase number of guns in circulation.

Since weapons are not checked to see if they are even functional (at least in my area), some portion of the weapons “taken off the street” are actually no more dangerous than a brick.

Bounty on cobra skins increase number of cobras on the loose because the British government in India set the bounty above the cost of breeding cobras. Result? Some people bred cobras for the bounty. When the rulers figured that out, they cut the bounty and the breeders turned loose their cobras.

Ban on driving cars based on last digit of license plate in order to reduce pollution actually increased pollution in Mexico. Quite simple explanation. People would buy an old beater to drive on the day they couldn’t driver their primary car, thus still driving on the so-called ‘banned’ days but doing so with a more polluting vehicle.

Check out the article for more, such as fines levied at the shore on the excess amount of fish brought to shore in fishing boats results in the excess amount getting dumped in the ocean instead of being brought back to shore.

(Hat tip: Carpe Diem)


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