The Law of Unacknowledged Consequences

By Doug Newman – email me here.
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On December 5, 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified and alcohol prohibition was repealed. This represents a rare instance of a nation admitting that it was wrong and reversing course.

Many people are familiar with the law of unintended consequences, which states that purposeful actions, especially those by government, frequently do not yield the desired outcome. Alcohol prohibition was one of an endless list of examples of this law.

Let’s consider another law. And if it is not a law, it is an overwhelmingly common human tendency. That law is the law of unacknowledged consequences. It states that when people support a government action, they absolutely cannot acknowledge the unintended consequences of this action.

It is ubiquitous. Examples are everywhere.

The intent of minimum wage laws is to provide people with a livable wage. Proponents of these laws simply will not acknowledge that they leave massive numbers of unskilled workers – especially in poor areas – unemployed.

I remember the summer of 1979 all too vividly.

The intent of price controls on things such as rent, and gasoline is to keep housing and gasoline affordable. Proponents of these laws absolutely will not acknowledge that they always lead to shortages.

The intent of the Affordable Care Act was, well, affordable healthcare for all Americans. Proponents of this law absolutely will not acknowledge that removing underwriting requirements caused the cost of healthcare and health insurance to soar out of control.

The intent of affirmative action is to make up for past racial injustices. Proponents of these policies absolutely will not acknowledge that they are by definition discriminatory.

The intent of progressive income taxes is to take from them what has and redistribute to them what isn’t. Proponents of such taxes absolutely will not acknowledge that them what has have access to lawyers and lobbyists to influence the politicians to perforate the tax code with endless loopholes.


The intent of printing endless amounts of money is to fund government programs be they welfare or welfare. Proponents of such recklessness absolutely will not acknowledge that such “money” eventually becomes worthless.

The intent of gun control is to prevent crime. Proponents of gun control absolutely will not acknowledge that criminals – in both the public and private sectors – have zero respect for such laws and that such laws only disarm innocent law-abiding people leaving them defenseless as criminals run amok.

The intent of TSA is to protect people form terrorism. Proponents of this porn, perversion and pedophilia absolutely will not acknowledge that a terrorist could walk up to one of their blue shirts, show his ID and boarding pass, reach into his bag, push a button, and detonate a bomb killing 1000 people.

The intent of drug prohibition is to stop people from taking certain drugs. Drug warriors absolutely will not acknowledge that the war on (certain) drugs has not only led to the “land of the free” having the world’s highest incarceration rate, but it also makes criminals out of people who heal themselves with marijuana, whose medicinal properties are endlessly documented and is more benign than any Rx medication.

The intent of Trump’s trade wars was to “go after” those criminal ChiComs. Proponents of these “wars” absolutely will not acknowledge that they were a series of tax increases – by executive order, no less – on the American consumer.

The intent of Trump’s holy of holies – the border wall – was to stop illegal immigration. Proponents of the wall absolutely will not acknowledge that this wall could be used by some future president to keep Americans from leaving.

The intent of lockdowns, social distancing, masks, and the rest of the COVID crackdown is to save lives. Proponents of this flu d’etat, as I call it, absolutely will not acknowledge, among many other things, that this madness will most probably cause more deaths than it prevents.

I could go on.

It is a human tendency to not want to admit it when we are wrong. This failing becomes far worse when people demand state action.

I’ll end with this quote from Joseph Sobran, one of my all-time favorite political commentators who passed away far too soon in 2010:

One of the odd things about our mistakes is that after we commit ourselves to them, it becomes difficult even to perceive them as mistakes. We adapt to them, justify them, become dependent on them, and forget the alternatives to them, until we no longer have the mental detachment we had before we made them. They become almost impossible to disown, and we sacrifice our judgment to them.

And over time, our wrong turns are normalized and exalted as steps in the epic of progress. Anyone who proposes to correct them is given the standard homily:

“‘We can’t turn back the clock!”

It’s amazing how seldom societies ask themselves, before making a fateful decision, some simple questions:

What if this turns out to be a disastrous mistake? Will we be able to undo it?

About Food for the Thinkers

My name is Doug Newman. I live in Aurora, Colorado, just outside Denver. Food for the Thinkers is mostly about the connection between Christianity and libertarianism. Most Christians do not understand libertarianism. And most libertarians do not understand Christianity. Hopefully, this blog helps clear up those misunderstanding. Check out my old page at And remember: When you let people do whatever they want, you get Woodstock. But when you let governments do whatever they want, you get Auschwitz.
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