The Law of Unintended Consequences
"In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.
"There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.
"Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil."
– From an essay by Frédéric Bastiat in 1850, "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen"
I gasped, because I had two simultaneous thoughts:
1) What a simple, commonsensical, yet ingenious remark.
2) How can it be that Bastiat wrote this in 1850, and we still don't get it?
|[Thanks to Impactedbygrace for this image.]|