Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Unintended Consequences

Andrew writes with some interesting comments on Saturday's post titled Dumb but Funny. In the post, I quoted the editor of our local paper who made the remark that Palin's skepticism about human activity being the cause of global warming is bad for polar bears. Andrew writes:

Just a note on the polar bear comment. My dad is a hunter, and when I say hunter I don't mean taking a day or two off in late November to shoot a white tail deer. My dad hunts all over the world; Africa, New Zealand, Alaska, Tajikistan, and Canada. We were actually talking about polar bears the other day, and this is what he told me. The number of bears in Alaska right now is the highest it has ever been. However, environmentalists are afraid that global warming could hurt the population in the next 45-50 years, so polar bears were put on the endangered species list already to try to protect them in the future.

Here's the problem. Big game animals bring in big game hunters and big game hunters bring big money to these small Alaskan communities. No hunters means no money and no incentive for the locals and natives to protect the local polar bear population.

In Kenya you can't find wildlife anywhere. Years ago the Kenyan government outlawed hunting. Since the hunters were not coming to Kenya anymore there was no longer any reason for the local populations to protect the animals native to Kenya. Poaching became rampant and today there is almost no wild game in that country.

This same thing could very well happen to the polar bear in Alaska. Are they really going to be able to stop the locals from poaching the bears for food or even shooting them when they get too close to the towns and settlements? The environmentalists may well have doomed the polar bear in their attempt to save it [from] a threat that many believe doesn't even exist.

Andrew's e-mail offers us a good illustration of something called the Law of Unintended Consequences. So often the actions of government have consequences that are completely unforeseen, unintended, and counterproductive. It's a good reason to be skeptical of those who promise us that government can solve our problems.

One of the best examples of how the Law of Unintended Consequences works that I can recall occurred back in the 1980s. Congress decided that wealthy people could afford to pay more taxes on their luxury boats so they imposed a steep tax on boat purchases. This caused buyers to shop abroad for their pleasure craft which caused several New England boat builders to go out of business, thrusting hundreds of middle class workers and craftsmen out of jobs. The government didn't get their revenue, the wealthy weren't "punished" and the only thing that happened was lots of average folk wound up unemployed. That's our Congress working for you.



Breaking news from the Onion News Network: Jacksonville Jaguars Experience Existential Epiphany:

We have it on good authority (almost as reliable as The Onion) that after the game was called the Jaguars players repaired to the locker room where they listened to their coaching staff read excerpts from Sartre's Being and Nothingness.

HT: Uncommon Descent