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Mar 18

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF PUBLIC POLICY

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In the words of the immortal Harry Browne, “Each government program carries within it the seeds of future programs that will be ‘needed’ to clean up the mess the first program creates.” (Why Government Doesn’t Work, 1995, p 17). Herbert Spencer remarked in 1850 that there was scarcely a bill introduced in the British Parliament that was not titled “An Act to Amend an Act,” the “Whereas’s” of which always heralded “on account of the miscarriage of previous legislation.” (Social Statics, 1850, p. 12).

“To mitigate distress [of the poor],” wrote Spencer, “the English people have sanctioned upward of one hundred acts in Parliament . . . each of them arising out of the failure or incompleteness of previous legislation. . . . What is the statute book but a record of such unhappy guesses?” (1850: . 11).