Unintended Consequences

Standard

I have just read a depressing article by Chris McGreal in the Guardian Weekly.  It’s headed ‘Beattyville: abandoned by coal, swallowed by drugs’ and describes the state of impoverishment and demoralisation that followed the closure of coal mines and other industries in Kentucky.

My stroppiness index rose when I read about the ‘pop’ scam, which works as follows. Supermarkets sell discounted cola to poor people, often for food stamps. The poor people sell the cola to smaller shops, cheaply enough to allow for resale at normal prices, and use the money to buy drugs – in particular an addictive pain-reliever called OxyContin that is supposed to be available only on prescription.

Here is a classic case of unintended consequences, though I’m not sure how anyone administering the food stamps programme could have confused fizzy drinks with food.  I’m not sure what conclusion to draw.  Perhaps it’s that no matter how well-intentioned a policy may be, and no matter how carefully it is crafted, people will find a way to subvert it, turn good to bad, and make poor people poorer still.

As it happens much of my recently published opus, The Eeks Trilogy, is about unintended consequences in the realms of robotics, human relationships and space colonisation.