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Unintended Consequences Serendipity

February 16, 2007

As if right on cue, Wretchard has a long post today regarding the Law of Unintended Consequences long post today regarding the Law of Unintended Consequences. His topics there are how ethanol policy drives up the price of corn in Mexico, and a long look at failed policies at Yellowstone National Park.For those with little time, I’ll cut to the moral of the story:

But readers of this site will by now have realized the parallels that exist between managing nature and managing international conflict. Although we tend to forget it now, the West very intrusively "managed" the Middle East through much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Iraq itself, for example, is the political creation of European diplomacy. And so, some might argue, was Israel. After the Second World War, having made these vast changes, further intrusive management was regarded as evil. The West drew back and proceeded to purchase vast quantities of oil from the region, leaving things to the care and feeding of the United Nations in the belief that nothing else would happen now that History was at an End.

This essay does not go to the issue of the tension between freedom and equality; but that was always just one arbitrary way of defining the differences that divide us. Also of interest is how people look at predators and victims; "saving the earth" and providing a better life for humans. There are yet more I cannot name in my brief lunch break here. At the heart of my intent in raising these kinds of issues is taking a look at how values order goods. Only an immature thinker believes he can have everything, all the time; so too does he blame decent people for the failure to create such a reality. Life is full of tough choices based on incomplete information and guided in faith. The results of those choices will often surprise us. More on that subject next.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kathleen permalink
    March 18, 2007 7:56 pm

    My dear Count,

    So…I have read your commentary several times and am not quite sure what your point is with your post. Every action that we take in this world has an intended and unintended consequence. It is arbitrary. We either choose to realize as many of those unintended consequences as we can, or we CHOOSE to blunder through life in complete and total oblivion…shopping at Wal-Mart and Safeway. We can choose to be selfish. We can choose to “take the easy way out.” We can also choose to think about every action we take. We can work a little bit harder, drive a little bit less and NOT turn on those darn Heating/AC units when life becomes a little less than temperate.

    You are certainly correct in stating that life is full of tough choices based on incomplete information. However, I will counter that the majority of us are well aware of, at least, some of the consequences of our actions. We just refuse to take the time to acknowlege the consequences of those actions.

    Many of us do not make these “more intelligent” choices based on some type of religious faith. We make them based not only on scientific study, but also on sound judgement and just plain common sense.

    For example, if I have to commute to work every day and public transportation is not an option (California refuses to fund it), I think I will purchase and Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla rather than a (enter any care name here) Seqoia or Tundra. Funny how these darn SUV’s are all named after trees or wilderness areas.

    I don’t make tough choices. I make the choices that are the best for my health, the environment and my children’s world. These choices may take me more time and energy…but that is o.k. I grow my own food and what I cannot grow I purchase from a C.S.A. I am not so dependent on corn that a collapse in the corn market would affect my family.

    However, I think that creating fuel out of out major food staple is a big mistake. I challenge you to go into a major grocery store in your city and purchase a product that has not used corn or some sort of corn derivitive in it’s production. It is not an easy task.

    We are far too dependent corn and it’s use in the mass production of our food to start using it as fuel.

    Forget the prices of corn tortillas…think about the price of everything in our grocery stores…wheat thins, chicken, beef, bread, milk, butter….blah, blah blah.

    Geez,our entire food supply is dependent upon this darn stuff. How did we let this happen?

    Perhaps it was divine intevention or GOD was letting us strangle ourselves with one major crop.

    Drawing an analogy between natural ecosystems and human ecosystems is folly. Humans are strange birds..and religion makes us even crazier. My God…your god…his god…her god.

    My oil…your oil…my car…your car.

    Michael Crichton may have written some passable fiction books…he may have a degree from Harvard in medicine, but that certainly does not make him an expert on ecosystem managment, natural resources, botany, biology, oceanography or climatology. Who, on the continent thought that he was an actual scientific expert on Yellowstone? Please, cut me a small amount of slack.

    Could we start listening to the real scientists now?

    Or, perhaps, GOD, has left it up to us? If so, then why are we continually screwing it up?


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