The law of unintended consequences

San Francisco, in an effort to increase its revenues, raised its parking meter fees to an average of $3.00 per hour. City officials expected a cash cascade. What happened instead, was that people obligated to pay the fees figured out that they’d do better in private parking garages. By doing so, they’d pay the same amount of money as the parking meters demanded, but their cars would be safer, and they wouldn’t run the risk of a penalty for returning late to their car. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that, in some areas of the City, the sole meter users are those who obtained one of the 90,000 handicapped parking permits issued to City residents. Read about it here.

In a similar story, when California mandated increased pay for prison doctors, in the wake of a lawsuit complaining about the abysmal medical care available to California prisoners, that law too created an unintended ripple effect. Doctors who had been working in state hospitals made a rush for the prison doors, figuring that the increased salary made up for the less than desirable working conditions. California’s mental hospitals — many of which treated dangerous offenders, or people who are potentially dangerous because of their delusions — have had to stop admissions and are unable to treat their current population. There’s a thought to keep us warm on a cold night.

As Mr. Bookworm said when I related these stories to him, “The big ideas are easy. The devil is in the details.” | digg it