Unintended consequences are the bane of social engineers. They are why the “Scientific” and centralized method of governance never worked and will never work. (Sorry, guys, it just won’t.)
Part of it is because humans are contrary. Part of is because humans are chaotic. And part of it is be cause like weather systems, societies are so complex it’s almost impossible to figure out what a push in any given place will cause to happen in another place.
This is why price controls are the craziest of idiocies. They don’t work in the way they’re intended, but oh, they work in practically all the ways they’re not. So, take price controls on rent. All they really do is create a market in which housing is scarce, landlords don’t maintain their property AND the only people who can afford to live in cities that have rent control are the very wealthy.
BUT Sarah, you say, aren’t rent controls supposed to make them affordable. Yeah. All that and the good intentions will allow you to go skating in hell on the fourth of July weekend.
Let’s be real, okay? I saw rent control up close and personal in Portugal. Rents were controlled and landlords were penalized for “not keeping the property up”.
In Portugal at the time, and here too, most of the time from what I’ve seen, the administration of property might be some management company, but that’s not who OWNS the damn thing. The owners are usually people who bought the property so it would support them in old age/lean times.
To begin with, you’re removing these people’s ability to make money off their legitimately owned property. And no, they’re not the plutocrats bernie bros imagine. These are often people just making it by.
Second, people are going to get the money some other way, because the alternative is dying. And people don’t want to die or be destitute. So they’re going to find the money. I have no idea what it is in NYC, etc, but in Portugal? it was “key buying.” Sure, you can rent the house for the controlled price, but you have to make a huge payment upfront to “buy the key.” From what I remember this was on the order of a small house down payment. And if you couldn’t do that, you were stuck getting married and living with your parents. And if you say “greedy landlords” — well, see the other thing you could do was leave the lease in your will. So the landlord didn’t know if they’d ever get control of their property back, and they needed to live off this for x years (estimated length of life.) So, that was an unintended consequence. The kind that keeps surfacing in rent-controlled cities in the US.
The same applies to attempts to “help” the homeless. Part of this, as part of all attempts to “fix” poverty is that the people doing it, usually the result of generations of middle class parents and strives assume the homeless and the poor are people like them.
To an extent, they’re correct. The homeless and the poor are PEOPLE. But culture makes a difference, and culture is often based on class and place of upbringing. And the majority of humanity, judging by the world, might be made to strive but are not natural strivers. Without incentive, most of humanity sits back, relaxes and takes what it’s given.
Look, we’re a scavenger ape species. Sitting back and eating what you have is a good survival trait. Because the tribes of overachievers, who actually went out and hunted might live better, but if they don’t stop hunting when they already have three giant mammoths rotting in the cave, they’re just going to starve next month when there are no more mammoth. So, given no incentive, humans do not work. Most humans. Yes, some of us are broken. And the incentives changed enough over the last hundred years that the broken ones thrived. But that doesn’t mean most of humanity wants to strive for the heck of striving. (And those of us who do tend to be more neurotic than a shaved cat, to be honest.)
So when you assume that poor people are poor because “they have too many demands” (look up bee sting theory, I covered it, I THINK on this blog) and therefore become overwhelmed, you go in entirely the wrong way and the results are epic and unintended.
Which is why our programs to deal with the poor or worse the homeless mostly create more poverty and homelessness. And the people running it refuse to process the results because “that’s not what should be happening.”
Look, every minimum income that’s been tried results in less productivity, greater poverty (people try to live within the free money, no matter how tight) and just general aimlessness and squalor. But very smart people will keep insisting on them, because it’s not the way THEY’d react to minimum income.
Anyway, so, I’m highly amused with the press’s crusade to make Covid-19 into the black death.
Note that I’m not saying there won’t be deaths. There is a potential for a high number of deaths particularly mid health care workers and the elderly. As someone who has friends in both groups, and frankly who catches everything that crosses the street and usually catches it twice and really bad cases, I am of course concerned.
But the numbers are not black death. The high estimate, back of the envelope, among friends, if the US goes like the Diamond Princess is around 1 million.
The US is however not likely to go China, or Italy. We just don’t have the same systemic weirdness those countries have. And Diamond Princess is absolutely the worst case scenario. We’ll probably get a “bad flu season” hit, which is STILL hundreds of thousands.
The panic itself, though, is going to cause damage to the economy and eventually deaths. Because the economy is not “greed” or “you want money”, it’s how we live. There are going to be people laid off who are stressed and weakened and might die. There are going to be supplies that don’t reach those who need them because of economic turmoil and panic. And all of that — all of that — is goofy. And not needed.
But you see, the press is on the side of the social engineers. They’re trying to engineer panic and ruin, because then they can get the party of the “best people” who “know what they’re doing” in power and — they think, for a stretch goal — get universal health care in too. So they’re pounding the drum and screaming black death as hard as they can.
For a comparison to how they treated the Swine Flu, which is probably on the same level but hit the young instead of the old, read Lilek’s excellent post. Only, you know, the Swine Flu it was their precious social engineer in charge, not Orange man bad. So, there was no panic. None.
The problem is the press is…. well… let’s say most members of the 4th estate (Lord, was there ever a more vainglorious self-appellation?) were never as bright as they thought they were. And it’s not got any better by hiring for political conformity with the social engineer crazy.
I’m going to point out a few things they might have not thought of:
You can’t keep the panic up forever, unless there are body-collection carts making the rounds. You just can’t. You can only inflate the few casualties so long. Sooner or later, people are going to tweak.
And then two things happen: First, they notice that you age, once again, not just lying but being crazy. And you lose a little more of your ability to convince people. Probably well before the election.
People are being stampeded into telecommuting. The thing is, dear media, once that happens, you can’t put it back in the bottle.
For two decades now, telecommuting and distance learning have been perfectly possible and even, frankly, beneficial. What has held it back is managers afraid they don’t know how to manage at a distance, corporations who think mega cubicle farms are a great way to be “important” and a general sense that only us, ne’er do wells, work in our pajamas on the sofa (I’ll have you know I’m wearing a sweatshirt and yoga pants. Never mind.)
If the panic lasts even two months (and the press will ensure it does before it collapses under its own weight) that reluctance to telecommute is going to be blown to hell. For one, once workers taste of THAT fruit, just anecdotally, 90% of them LOVE it. (The other 10% have very annoying children or spouses.)
And in the wake of the financial panic and wobbles, corporations are going to notice that they spend a lot less money when most of the workers work from home. At some point, they’ll also realize that they need much smaller facilities if they need facilities at all. And hey, money.
This will cause all sorts of other things, which I think will lead within two years to an exodus from the big cities everyone has crammed into because it’s where the jobs are. I think in turn this will lead to a world the social engineers really don’t like.
Other side effects are not going to be pleasing to them, either. I think this ends up killing bookstores. And since that’s the only hold the traditional publishers have on the market… well, wave bye bye, it’s been nice knowing them.
And btw, not everyone is stupid. The difference in how the virus was handled here and in Europe, no matter how much the media screams and hollers, is not going to be centralized government health care looking good. In fact, it will probably bury the idea once and for all.
And the one thing ALREADY becoming clear is that we can’t afford to do business with totalitarian countries that will lie to us, or to have completely open borders to them. Or really to anyone. You can scream “racist” all you want, but nationalities are not races, and viruses don’t care. The end of this will be sensible border control. Sorry if you won’t like it, media, you brought it on yourselves. You could have treated this like you treated swine flu, and not hurt the economy, but your senseless fury against Orange Man Bad is leading you to all those unintended consequences…. We’ll enjoy them. We don’t know about you.
Other unintended consequences MIGHT come from the virus itself, including the fact that, apparently, there’s far, far fewer drugs coming in, which is having an interesting effect in our urban fauna. And who’ll know what the unintended consequences of THAT will be.
Stay calm. The one thing we know is that historically the unintended consequences always bite the social engineers in the butt.
Buy stocks of popcorn.