One of the basic techniques of public policy analysis to convey to students (and alert citizens) is the law of unintended consequences and its corollary, the law of perverse results. I typically say these are the two most frequently enacted laws by Congress and our state legislatures (like Obamacare, though many of its perverse results are fully intended).
So lo and behold, it ought to be an embarrassment to the mainstream media (though many things should embarrass the MSM) that one of the best current guides to this concept comes from the comedy site Cracked.com, who were out yesterday with “Five Laws That Made Sense on Paper (And Disasters in Reality).”
The most difficult thing about running a country is that it’s full of people. The entire history of government involves somebody coming up with a plan that sounds great on paper, only to be hilariously thwarted by human nature within minutes of it passing (see: Prohibition). The world is full of these stories, and they prove time and again that it’s really hard to get human beings to do something they just don’t want to do.
The five are:
1. Tightening Bankruptcy Laws Screws Absolutely Everyone.
2. Fishing Quotas Are Bad News for Fish.
3. Mexican Anti-Pollution Policy Increases Pollution.
4. Put a Bounty on Snakes, You Get More Snakes.*
5. Gun Buyback Programs Result in More Guns.
Read the whole thing for complete explanations. I’m not fully sold on bankruptcy laws, but I am certain that number 1 deserves to be Obamacare, because it’s really a totally Number Two kind of policy that will result in more people without quality health care before it is repealed.
Now why can’t our political science and public policy schools be as perceptive as Cracked.com?
*Of course, that British policy on snakes in India was probably a far-sighted design to provide Samuel L. Jackson with his most memorable movie line ever. I guarantee you that line will be in the first paragraph of his obituary some day.