That government policies have "unintended consequences" is a staple of both political rhetoric and policy analysis. In its strongest form, the argument is that policy consequences are not only unintended but perverse--they make the problems they address worse rather than better. These arguments are pervasive, but are they simply rhetorical conventions, or is something more systematic involved? In this Bradley Lecture, Christopher DeMuth argues that policy failure is a fundamental attribute of modern government and politics. When government intervenes in an economic market or other private arrangement to achieve a preconceived result, the tools at its disposal are limited and easily overwhelmed by the compensating reactions of individuals and firms. This problem is as severe as the information problem made famous by F. A. Hayek. Moreover, the political process, in fashioning compromises among the interests of supporters and opponents, frequently generates policies that are more flaccid and porous than other policies at the government's disposal. Where, as is often the case, effective policy would be costly and disruptive and policy effectiveness inherently difficult to gauge, the result is "intended non-consequences." Christopher DeMuth is the D. C. Searle Senior Fellow at AEI, where he studies government regulation, U.S. politics, and culture. He was the president of AEI from December 1986 through December 2008. Previously, Mr. DeMuth was administrator for information and regulatory affairs in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief in the Reagan administration; taught economics, law, and regulatory policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; practiced regulatory, antitrust, and general corporate law; and worked on urban and environmental policy in the Nixon White House. Accredited media please register through Veronique Rodman at firstname.lastname@example.org. (karenharris)
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