Unintended consequences: A case study

The Boston Globe carries an interesting article on one of the unintended consequences of John Kerry’s attack on President Bush’s service in the National Guard: “Ex-Guardsmen say jab at Bush tars them.”
In 1936 sociologist Robert K. Merton attempted to provide a conceptual framework for the analysis of unintended consequences in “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action.” The first two sources of unintended consequences identified by Merton were ignorance and error.
It’s the third source that explains Kerry’s fall into the briar patch on this issue, “imperious immediacy of interest.” By that Merton was referring to instances in which an individual wants the intended consequence of an action so much that he purposefully chooses to ignore any unintended effects. (Thanks to Rob Norton’s essay “Unintended Consequences.”)


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