Even if we grant that the drafters of legislation and regulations have the country’s best interests in mind (which I believe is a reasonable assumption, at least most of the time) it is not a rare event that the unintended consequences of policies are so bad as to call into question the overall benefit of the policies. I have heard of such cases over and over again and thought it would be interesting and perhaps helpful to document some examples. I will edit this post over time to provide examples as I come across them. Please add a comment if you know of other examples that would help demonstrate the point.
This approach cannot be a proof that all legislation is hopelessly misguided and doomed to failure but I hope it will provide support for the notion that the burden of proof should be on the side of any drafter of legislation to prove that their effort will not make the world worse rather than better off. I also hope it will help provide a broader perspective when considering what the government can or should do – and that anyone contemplating government action should not just assume away or ignore unintended consequences.
Topics in this series include: