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But are all the “unintended consequences” really so unintended?

Regulation is the new taxation. Eamonn Butler has an example of this at “Europe’s Favourite Think Tank blog”, as the ASI blog has taken to describing itself:

… Germany is introducing a new workplace regulation, which insists that businesses must take on at least one trainee/apprentice for every fifteen workers they employ.

An excellent initiative to get young people learning a trade, you might think. …

But I wonder whether this concession is one that we free marketeers should perhaps stop inserting into pieces like this. Something more along the lines of “well now let us think of just what sort of harm this state compulsion is going to do” might be more in order, instead of ritual obeisance towards the supposed good intentions of the people who imposed this rule. So, let me see. This one will result in masses of businesses having apprentices who just hang around going through the motions. Wasted young lives, in other words. A classic welfare trap, imposed upon the ‘private’ sector.

But as with all government interventions over the marketplace, there are unintended consequences.

Quite so.

For Germany recently legalized brothels. And, like other businesses, they too are covered by the new law. So for every 15 girls employed, another must be enticed into the trade as an apprentice.

A rather odd result – which just shows what a tangle politicians get into when they start telling businesses how to run themselves.

But what if this “tangle” is actually the whole idea? The people who did this, I surmise, hate business, all business. But recent intellectual trends make it harder for them to say this out loud. So, they just go ahead wrecking businesses anyway, without any public justification, and then they blame the very principle of doing business for the wreckage that they have themselves unleashed. Bastards.

The trouble with the theory of “unintended consequences is that you deny yourself the chance to call people doing harm evil. And calling such people evil might be just the thing to get them to stop.

On the legalising prostitution thing, a couple of years ago the Libertarian Alliance published a piece by a prostitute, who argued that the last damn thing her line of business needed was to be made ‘legal’. ‘Legal’ equals smothered in idiotic laws and regulations (and taxes of course), whereas illegal means she could run her business the way she wanted, uninterfered with, apart from the occasional bribe or two, by meddling government officials.

8 comments to But are all the “unintended consequences” really so unintended?

  • Jacob

    “whereas illegal means she could run her business the way she wanted, uninterfered with, apart from the occasional bribe or two, by meddling government officials.”

    Here is another example how bribes and corruption make life bearable in our overregulated and bureaucratic milieu.

    One woders is the original regulations aren’t intended to generate bribes rather than acheive the proclaimed good aim.

  • Well said, Brian. It’s not like these unintended consequences aren’t at least predicted. These laws get debated, select committees get a good hard look at them, and there are always going to be people who predict these wretched consequences. Do they get listened to, indulged even? No, they get written off as right-wing scum with no social consciences.
    Time to fight back, and stop pretending that these interfering slimebags are well-intentioned, albeit well-meaning etc. etc. Capitalists are far too soggy and defensive in my book.

  • Paul Marks

    The Chancellor of Germany (who the B.B.C. often call the “President” of Germany) has recently been boasting how E.U. membership will have to eventually mean much higher levels of taxation in various nations in Eastern Europe (it has already led to a vast web of ever growing regulations being put in place).

    As Chancellor S. is normally denounced as a terrible free market type by much of the rest of the German S.P.D. (indeed he has just had to give up the leadership of his party) I wonder what the rest of the German Social Democrats are like.

    One of the main points of the E.U. is to prevent the “European Social Model” being undermined by competition between nations in terms of regulations and (they hope) taxation (it is well known that business activity tends to move from areas of high regulation and taxation to areas of low regulation and taxation). This is not just a matter of European Social Democrats – many European (including British) “Conservatives” accept this as well.

    People who think the E.U. can be “reformed” do not seem to understand what the function of the organization is.

  • So let’s take an idea from the enemy. The Precautionary Principle. No new law or regulation can be passed unless we are absolutely certain that there will be no bad consequences. Why not ? They do it to us.

  • Interesting article from the girl in Australia. It’s a little close to home for me, and I don’t mean geographically.

  • Ah, yes, the intended consequences of state intervention. I seem to remember someone writing something along those lines. I think it was you.

    One of my favourites by the way.

  • Pete (Detroit)

    I’d be a lot happier if they had to repeal two laws for every one they passed…

  • Euan Gray

    Of course, one might look at the prostitution business more cynically and consider that the potential profits are substantially higher if it is illegal. The risk is also higher, of course, but it is not hard to understand why certain people within the trade might prefer illegality.