Masters of the unintended

The Loose Cannon Libertarian

Libertarians continually point out that the one thing mainstream politicians everywhere never seem to learn, no matter how many do-overs they get, is this: All actions have consequences; ill-conceived actions have unintended consequences.

This is because the politician’s response to every issue is the same: Governmental coercion solves all problems.

It’s a knee-jerk formula for jerks: See problem A, pass law B, get result C. Problem solved.

In this regard, legiscrats are like myopic children:

A. Tie firecrackers to cat’s tail.
B. Light firecrackers.
C. Watch cat run.

Before setting this chain of events in motion, neither the kiddies nor the crats invest a single thought-molecule into what might happen in the real world: cat screeches, runs in circles, jumps through open window into house, huddles behind drapes, sets drapes on fire, burns down house.

Welcome to the world of Unintended Consequences.

Examples of this bureaucratic brainless blindness abound. But the very best cases come from the UK.

This may be because the United Kingdom is much farther down the dirt path toward the Total Socialist Welfare Surveillance Centrally Planned Collectivist Police State than the US, in spite of the hyperventilating, eyelid fluttering wet dreams of the Clintons and Obamas and McCains and their assorted authoritarian ilk.

For whatever reason, the Brits have become the unchallenged masters of the Unintended Consequence.

Finding examples is like finding crack in a crack pipe.

Problem: In the British universal unhealthycare system patients often wait for days in emergency rooms or are parked in hallways on gurneys for hours awaiting treatment.

Solution: The government mandates a maximum four-hour wait time in the waiting room to see a doctor.

Unintended Consequence: Ambulances stuffed with patients line up in hospital parking lots and sit there for up to five hours until the ailing are finally dumped in the waiting room where the clock starts on their government-mandated four-hour wait.

Problem: A British Member of Parliament pitches a fit when he finds out his conversation with a constituent has been bugged by the buggers of the royal nanny state. (MPs sanctimoniously, and unsurprisingly, exempted themselves from such snoopery.)

Solution: The universal knee-jerk response: Initiate an internal inquiry.

Unintended Consequence: According to an editorial in The Independent, the MP is “a member of the administration that has massively enhanced state surveillance for the rest of us.” (Always fit to see a Brit get bit on the arse by the teeth in his own legislation.)

Problem: Police nab nine illegal Afghani immigrants.

Solution: Acting on the advice of immigration officials, who follow instructions from the Home Office, the Bobbies put the illegals on a train, give them each a ticket and tell them to report to a detention center 80 miles away under their own recognizance.

Unintended Consequence: Can you spell “vanished?”

Problem: The National Health Service promises dental care for everyone.

Solution: Mandate annual quotas for dentists.

Unintended Consequence: Seven million people can’t find an NHS dentist because they all met their quotas a month early and, since they don’t get paid for doing extra work, went on vacation.

But fear not. American bureautards are doing their best to catch up.

Problem: Too many guns on the streets of Oakland.

Solution: Launch a gun buyback program.

Unintended Consequence: At $250 a pop people can easily afford to turn in their old broken rusty useless guns and go buy nice new shiny guns. In fact, according to the Contra Costa Times, “the first two people in line at one of the three buyback locations were gun dealers with 60 firearms packed in the trunk of their cars.” No mention is made in the article of any gang-bangers or carjackers turning in their Semiauto pistols like good little citizens.

But maybe we can still learn a couple of lessons from all this. Oakland should be called Jokeland and UK stands for Unintended Konsequences.

About the author Garry Reed is a longtime advocate of the libertarian philosophy of non-coercion that espouses personal autonomy and individual responsibility, civil rights and economic liberty, maximum freedom and minimum government. His website is


Anonymous's picture

I don’t believe these consequences to be as much unintended as simply ignored. The power elite who control government know exactly what they are doing — they simply don’t care what the consequences of their actions are, as long as their goals of expanded power and revenue are met. They don’t need to care, because they will never be punished, financially or otherwise for their actions.

The business of government can afford to ignore consequences. They know exactly what those consequences are — they just don’t care, as long as thier short term, self-interested goals are met. When you receive your revenue through force, year after year no matter if you succeed or fail, you don’t exactly have to answer to your customers. Imagine being an executive in a business like that. Why bother accounting for your actions? Just grab as much of the pie as you can before your time is up. The consequences of your actions fall on others, not you.

Never attribute to ignorance that which can be attributed to malice. Government — the business of orgnized coercion — has been around for a very long time. They know exactly what they’re doing.