Monday, September 05, 2005

The Law of Intended Consequences

It gives the play a lousy plot, but much of what happens is simply what somebody wanted. They may not like it when they get it, but that’s a separate issue. For example, I don’t doubt that many Republicans were momentarily unhappy to read that poverty had increased in every year of the Bush administration as it routinely does in Republican administrations; but that result, though unedifying, began life as an intention. One can imagine a universe in which destroying unions, eliminating public services, and promoting lower wages ironically results in general prosperity, but that’s an alternative reality. In our world, if the ruling party sets out to benefit its people at the expense of those people, it’s very likely to succeed.

Liberals and moderates like to argue about policies, but often what matters is not how the law reads but who administers it. One is reminded of the old and thankfully obsolete joke about the German daddy who complained that when he followed the directions on assembling his son’s bicycle, it always turned out to be a machine gun.

Sometimes it is a fallacy not to argue ad hominem.

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