How to approach the dilemma between the law of unintended consequences and the consequences of nonaction?

post by kristin.h (kristin.ho) · 2022-06-20T02:20:06.772Z · EA · GW · 1 comments

This is a question post.

my academic background/training - undergraduate studying Art History and Philosophy

I have been pondered over the dilemma between the unintended consequences (or second order thinking) and the consequences of nonaction when policy researchers or policy makers usually use such argument to defend their stance on their political unwillingness to act upon certain social issues. These people tend to be in favor of a small government over a big one in the States. My initial response to this argument is a couple years ago was to ask, "What about the subsequent outcome of non-intervention?" It is true that one cannot remove or alter the unintended consequences in the interconnected web of causality to predict and prevent any series of chain effects; however, could we afford the consequences of political inaction in as a society or nation as a whole? 

*this inquiry/thought is by no means polished but a way for me to exercise my critical thinking

Answers

answer by jimrandomh · 2022-06-20T07:05:15.174Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Too abstract. Second-order effects are mostly not mysterious, they're things which you can predict, not perfectly but usually well enough, if you look at the right parts of the world and apply some economics. If someone's arguing against an intervention because they think the intervention will have bad second-order effects, then the followup question is whether those effects are real and how big they are. Answering that means looking at the details.

That said, in my experience, if you come across an argument between two people, and one person is saying Something Must Be Done, and the other person is saying You Fool That Will Backfire For Reasons I Will Explain, the second person is almost always right.

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