LIFE LESSONS

The Law of Unintended Consequences Revisited

When will we ever learn?

Ed Newman
3 min readNov 25, 2020

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Photo by RawFilm on Unsplash

A number of years ago I read a news story that somewhat surprised me, though I’ve reached an age at which nothing should surprise me when it involves government. Nevertheless it did take me back a step as it once more illustrated one of my favorite laws, the law of unintended consequences.

For those not familiar with it, the encyclopedia defines it like this:

“The Law of Unintended Consequences holds that almost all human actions have at least one unintended consequence. Unintended consequences are a common phenomenon, due to the complexity of the world and human over-confidence.”

Examples of this law in action are legion, especially in situations where modifying behavior is attempted. Prohibition is one well-known example. Small-time suppliers of booze were put out of business, but the demand was such that organized crime (gangsters) owned the market.

Charlie Wilson’s War illustrates another example. We armed the Mujaheddin to help them fight the Russians, but in the end the weapons we supplied them with were later used for other purposes, not to our liking. The same happened in Latin America when we armed General Noriega. And at one time we chose to supply Saddam Hussein in Iraq to fight Iran whom we decided were “the bad guys” in that conflict.

Well, the news story that captured my attention had to do with wind farms. By wind farm we mean large collections of giant wind turbines designed to generate power by means of the wind. The idea of clean, renewable energy is a wonderful concept that does seem to have benefits, but I’ve long noticed a some issues with it, three in particular.

1) Location, location, location

The first issue with wind farms is that the best locations are often on bodies of water where sea meets land and (aha!) there is a lot of wind. The problem is, most waterfronts have become populated because not only does wind like the waterfront, people like it, too, and build homes there. Wealthy people especially like the view a waterfront affords. Putting wind farms here will very possibly decrease their property values. (I am guessing based on an…

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Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj