I remember a letter to the editor in a California newspaper circa 1973 during Nixon’s gasoline “shortage” from a man who told of sitting in his car waiting in line at what was ironically called a “filling station.” He said that when he looked in his rearview mirror he saw the driver behind him was smoking a joint. He quipped that we could solve two problems if we just legalized marijuana and outlawed gasoline.
Fifty years later, we have almost solved the marijuana “problem” by almost legalizing it. I say we have almost solved that problem, not just because the Feds and a few states are lagging, but because most of the states have made a mess of it by over-regulating and over-taxing it, so the black market persists. Good intentions are not enough.
I have cited what I call the Iron Law of Prohibition demonstrating how the economics of contraband actually makes “drugs” stronger and more dangerous. Actually, I’m certain that this is not always “unintended.”
Obviously, the frustrated motorist was joking about banning gasoline, but there really wasn’t an actual gas shortage. Nixon had panicked and slammed price controls on it which kept the market from functioning. In a free market, there are never long-term shortages because the prices will rise, angering consumers (voters), but eliminating lines, pleasing voters. Unintended?
When the Colonial pipeline to the East Coast was hacked, there were suddenly lines for fuel because of another aspect of human nature. There was a “shortage” because everyone panicked and got in line to fill up their tanks so inventory was shifted to cars because… Another unintended consequence.
The hacking of the pipeline was possible because of the phenomenon called “Internet of Things.” What could possibly go wrong? The February Texas blizzard came close to wrecking the world economy because Texas politicians wanted to pretend the Lone Star State was really a lone star. Ain’t no Yankees gonna tell us what to do! An unintended consequence.
The Biden administration has done an excellent job of making the COVID-19 vaccine easily available and free to everyone. What could possibly go wrong? But two groups are still hesitant to get their jabs. Ironically, they can be identified by race: Black and White.
Blacks have historical reasons to distrust the medical establishment, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and general history of poor medical care. Whites think everything is a conspiracy.
What if, instead of being so proudly egalitarian, Biden had announced that the rich could jump the lines by paying $100 or maybe more for shots at country clubs? “Influencers” could pose in front of Ferraris as they sip Champagne getting their jabs.
People would be demanding that everyone must have immediate access.
Of course, “Socialism” is the ultimate in unintended consequences, but the point remains that good intentions don’t necessarily produce good outcomes. On the contrary.
Like the Internet of Things, we are all connected in ways that we cannot understand or even know. When we try to control everything, we can set in motion the exact opposite of what we intended. The Law of Unintended Consequences.
Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of the Difference Between CBD For Dogs And Humans.