No politician wants an “Eat-Me” float in their community’s parade. That is precisely what happened when the Dean expelled students from the Delta Fraternity at Faber College. The expulsion was the root cause of the students’ action. The resulting riot and near decimation of the town’s main street can be traced to its’ roots - the expulsion. If there were no expulsion, the students would not have been motivated to disrupt in grand fashion. Of course all of this is a fictional story from the classic National Lampoon movie “Animal House.” Though this was just a movie, it is a classic example of the theory of unintended consequences.
The theory in brief, states that for every problem you solve, you either create or sow the seeds of another one. If we were to take a look around us with an unbiased critical eye, we can see many examples that are regrettably too true. Consider the following:
Exhibit A) Governor Walker’s “approach” to governance and balancing the state budget. The budget is balanced and then some. Numbers are such that we have a projected surplus. “Tools” were provided to assist school boards and local governments with their budgets. Problem solved.
Problems created? It was a polarizing event between the states’ two parties. It energized public employee unions and the Democratic Party (not good for the Repubs) - resulting in massive demonstrations and recall elections. It created an environment where we saw gobs of money spent in these elections. Local governments like are feeling the pinch now and in the foreseeable future with their budgets. Why? The new state law that restricts their ability to raise revenues – where will this lead?
I think it is fair to say that these consequences were not intended.
More problems created? Teachers being vilified with astounding hatred - experienced teachers leaving in droves to early retirement rather than bear additional economic burden in their golden years. It would be interesting to see the additional fall-out, you know, of those in college right now – those who planned on becoming teachers, but changed their minds after witnessing this newly created environment. Can you say future teacher shortage?
Even more problems created? November is coming and so is the certainty of the effort to recall the governor. Clearly, this action was not intended, yet its’ roots belong to the “approach” to the budget and his ensuing style of governance.
I say these things with no malice and this writing should not be considered criticism of our current leadership. These are facts. It should be a cautionary tale for all of us who lead, manage, or just try to get through our day. We create our own problems. Having an understanding of the theory of Unintended Consequences should give us pause to think a little bit further about our solutions and our actions.
Had he understood this theory, one wonders if Governor Walker could have avoided the parade scheduled in his honor to start this November.