Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Net Effect of Government

When we examine theories of government, starting perhaps with Plato and Aristotle, moving on to Polybius and Cicero, and then to Dante's essay on monarchy and the Magna Carta - and finally on to Hobbes, Bossuet, Locke, Rousseau, and still more modern thinkers, we remember the important law of unintended consequences. In the case of government, this takes the form of the general proposition many actions will attain the very opposite of their goal.

When the government declared a "war on poverty" in the 1960's, the only measurable result has been the increase in poverty, the creation of a permanent underclass, and designation of large inner-city areas as ghettos.

When the government wanted to reduce the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and other similar substances, the final outcome was the large-scale establishment of organized crime to import such drugs, or manufacture them domestically, and retail them.

History teaches us that, if there is an important situation or problem, society should address that problem directly; society should not ask the government to fix the situation. If society does request government intervention in an important concern, the result is most likely that the problem will not be fixed, but become only worse.

It is certainly tempting to ask the government to help us with our problems; but it is also usually a disaster when we do so.