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The Theory Of Unintended Consequences

We're ignoring how we create problems with our solutions.

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.

Duane Michalski September 14, 2011 at 11:30 PM
dan bell...please get off the crack. That is MY opinion.
Brian Dey September 15, 2011 at 12:45 PM
It energized the unions and the Democratic Party? To do what? Break the law, look like the thugs they really are, and oh yes, lose elections. Finally, one of the unintended consequences was exposing the greed and total disrespect of the people that pay teir bills, retirement and health insurance. Teachers being villified? Yes, those idiots that skipped school, broke windows, threatened businesses and on and on... And many teachers villified those teachers that acted like babies, and rightfully so. Recalls? Yeah, how did that work for you? And in November, (actually January), should the thugs be successful in forcing a recall ballot, you will see just how out of touch you are on public opinion as the Republicans are more motivated than ever to protect the Governorship from being stolen by those same aforementioned thugs. And don't count on the union money flowing so freely this time. It was wasted the first go around and the unions have their collective hands full trying to save Obama's hide. Yes what Walker did was risky, but it worked just like it was suppose to; save Wisconsin's economy, and the bonus was exposing what liberals stand for. Priceless...

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