The Law of Unintended Consequence: Regulator Version


By James Collins

Electronic payment conceptThe British had a problem when they ruled India: Cobras. Not the Ford muscle car variety, but the slithery poisonous variety. Thinking the way of all good bureaucrats, they decided to offer a bounty on every dead snake to keep down the number of deadly cobras slithering about. The scheme worked until a few enterprising young souls decided to breed the serpents for money. The breeding was so successful that it forced the government to stop paying a bounty. Now worthless, the breeders quickly began releasing the cobras, en masse, into the environment.

The Indian cobra problem was now much worse than when the British initiated their plan to control it.

This is an example of the idiomatic warning known as the “Law of Unintended Consequences” whereby one good idea may cause unexpected and detrimental effects. It can also be used to describe getting married and then having children.

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