Economists love the Law of Unintended Consequences, illustrating how ambitious politicians can often make her constituents worse off in her appeal to enhance their lives. In my textbook, I use the example of air pollution in Mexico City, where a law requiring each car to remain idle one day each week resulted in more older cars being driven, which resulted in worse air pollution.
I had only encountered this law in economics, yet I recently discovered there is nothing new under the sun that economists can offer. Between the 6th and 4th centuries B.C., Chinese philosophy of governance consisted largely of two camps: Confucianism and Daoism. We have all heard of Confucius, but Daoism?
Basically, Daoism asserts that our understanding of the world is limited, that everything that happens, happens for a reason, and when we attempt to employ our limited knowledge to control the world we often destroy institutions and activities that serve a valid purpose, and in the process, become ineffective leaders. That is, in essence, the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Dr. Kenneth J. Hammond
From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History
Lecture 5: Confucianism and Daoism
The Teaching Company
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