It seemed like a good idea…

The law of unintended consequences. And I don’t mean the leading cause of death among redneck males ages 18-24.

*trained actors, do not try this at home

In case you are curious, the leading cause of death is the phrase, “Hey…  Y’all watch this.”

The law of unintended consequences is a simple social construct stating that while something may start out as a good idea with good intentions, something entirely different can be the result.  This is neither good nor bad, just a truism. More often than not, it ends up badly.

Adam Smith, one of the greatest economic philosophers, wrote about the law of unintended consequences in his opus,  An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth Of Nations in 1776.  He describes an “invisible hand” that can move society.

“…each individual, seeking only his own gain, is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. … It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, or the baker, that we expect our dinner,but from regard to their own self interest.”

*not a redneck

The unintended consequence is that the general public benefits from individuals working towards their own means.  It’s like this…..  A few years ago I was in a discussion with a social liberal (there are many kinds) that accused me of “…being selfish and only looking out for your own self.” I replied that I was, in fact, looking out for myself and my family.  She quickly retorted that “what would the world be like if everyone was selfish like you?”

To which I replied…  ”If everyone was selfish like me, and took care of themselves like me, then no one would need to be taken care of.”


Let that resonate for a minute.  If people took personal responsibility for themselves, their actions, and their future, wouldn’t the world be a much better place?  That was the unintended consequence Adam Smith foresaw.

Unintended consequences often have more disastrous results. Social Security was originally intended to be a cost of living supplement to ensure that the elderly had enough to survive.  Since then, many have come to expect Social Security as their primary long-term investment strategy.  The lack of personal investment and personally funded retirements was a bad consequence.

In the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster, laws were passed that put an unlimited liability on oil shipping companies.  All that did was get the big, safe shipping companies to hire out to smaller, less stable, shippers.  So the intent was to make it safer to ship oil, it actually had the inverse because more oil is shipped with small, less insured, and less stable companies.  If a big spill were to happen again, there would not be a big company to clean up the mess.

*musty old claptrap

In 1936, the American sociologist Robert K. Merton wrote an article titled, “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action.” In it, Merton identified five sources of unanticipated consequences. The first two—and the most pervasive—were “ignorance” and “error.” Merton labeled the third source the “imperious immediacy of interest.” This is the one that we see most often in today’s government.

What Merton described was what happens when someone wants a change so much that they completely ignore any warning signs of negative unintended consequences. Like wanting hope and change so much that a populous is willing to elect a Socialist as President.  They wanted hope and they wanted change, unfortunately the hope and change we all got was bad on both fronts.

The government wants so badly to push the green energy movement, they they are completely blinded by the negative consequences.  They fail to even notice when Spain completely disbands any and all government spending on green energy because it has single handedly bankrupt the country.  In Spain, official unemployment is at 25%. How many more Solyndra’s do we need to realize green energy is a bad investment?

Now, I understand that talking about the law of unintended consequences in broad, general terms in regards to government makes it impossible to put a price tag on waste.  So what we have to do is look at smaller individual cases and see how money is wasted.

Enter in the Buffalo Public School System (BUPSS).  One thing to remember throughout this discussion, is that they are self insured.  That means when a member of the Buffalo Public Schools Insurance Policy goes to the doctor, it is paid directly by the taxpayers within that district.  Directly.

*notice their mission has nothing to do with teaching or learning

In the 1970′s, BUPSS union goons wedged into their contract plastic, cosmetic, and reconstruction surgery.  The good idea and thoughtful intent was to cover the cost of major reconstruction surgery to burn victims and disfigurement from accidents.  A noble cause.

And until recently, that was where the majority of spending went.  It wasn’t until that provision was threatened to be removed that it became a major benefit of working at BUPSS.  In 2004, spending on cosmetic surgery was at $1 million annually.  In 2009, that price tag went to $9 million.  That was spent on 500 employees receiving an average of $18,000 worth of work. Records show that by a wide majority, the work done was elective surgery.  A little botox here, a little nip/tuck there, some skin rejuvenation elsewhere.

*let’s do half now, and half later

Of the BUPSS employees, only 2% of the employees took advantage of the Hot for Teacher clause, yet these costs consumed 9% of the total medical expenditures.

The intent was to provide coverage for people who have suffered disfiguring accidents and it turns out that 2% of the employees are burning through 9% of the spending so they can feel better about themselves….

In Other News of the Ironic, one doctor, Dr. Kulwant Bhangoo (real name) billed the district $4.3 million in 2009, for cosmetic surgery and even advertises in local educational journals reminding the employees of BUPSS that the benefit is available.

*I don’t feel tardy…

The money spent on cosmetic surgery in Buffalo could hire at least 115 new employees, thus reducing the teacher to student ratio, put more people back to work, and help the economy in a real way.  Instead, Dr. Bhangoo gets to keep $4.3 million himself.  Sure he employees people, but not 115. And they sure as heck aren’t helping our most prized treasure, our children.

So…  You can have a tummy tuck or 115 more teachers. Which is more important?

One other tidbit of info…  The BUPSS union contract has expired. Yet in the language of the previous contract, every employee is guaranteed an annual wage increase and all of the benefits from the expired contract until a new contract has been signed. I can see that the union goons have a lot of reasons to get that new contract signed post haste….

What would you do with $9 million?


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