EppsNet Archive: Unintended Consequences

Unintended Consequences: The Death of George Washington


In 1799, George Washington fell ill with an infection. Doctors at that time believed that illnesses were caused by an imbalance of fluids in the body. In particular, they believed that fevers were caused by an excess of blood, so they treated Washington’s fever with five separate bloodlettings, which together drained off over half the blood in his body. Not only did the bloodletting not have a healing effect, it probably hastened his death. The human body is a very complex mechanism. Society is a very complex mechanism. You might decide, with good intentions, to tinker with a complex mechanism thinking that even if your intervention doesn’t achieve the full benefit you’re hoping for, it will at least be better than nothing. No — tinkering with a complex mechanism when you have no idea what you’re doing is only going to make things worse. Related Links “In Praise of Passivity”… Read more →

Unintended Consequences of Healthcare Reform


Many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government. That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama’s statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we’ll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America’s employers would remain the backbone of the nation’s health care system. Hence, health-care reform risks becoming a victim of unintended consequences. — Fortune, May 5, 2010   We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it. — Nancy Pelosi, March 9, 2010 Read more →