The Government Action Paradox

Often when government tries to address a pressing problem, a very strange effect occurs, leading to new and unforeseen problems. The effect is like a paradox of legislation, similar to Fenno’s paradox in Political science text books, that we tend to like our own congressperson but disapprove of congress, both for the same reason, because they serve their constituents at the expense of the nation. The Government action paradox is just a strange anomaly of bureaucracy that seems to result due to some law in the nature of things.

Government has tried to respond to the crisis regarding the abuse the pain killer Oxycodone, and our governor has had a group working on the problem for over a month. The Federal government, too, has responded, with a policy to limit the amount of the painkiller leaving the pharmacies. The most recent story, on NPR, was that genuine pain patients were unable to fill legitimate prescriptions, with the pharmacies themselves attempting to police the amounts. Pharmacies run out of an allotted monthly amount, sometimes within a week.

There are many examples of this effect of government action, and one suspects that these things might be looked for and foreseen by the legislators. Property seizure laws result in legalized theft, and the effect could have been foreseen. What is surprising is how difficult the effect is to correct, when everyone can see what is occurring. In Michigan, an attempt was made to crack down on Enemployment fraud. A computer program was apparently enlisted, and all fitting certain categories were charged, resulting in a ninety percent error rate. Even after this became clear, there was no court order to immediately stop all such prosecutions, but victims are forced to hire lawyers and defend themselves in court. It amazed me how patiently they were enduring the adventure. But they apparently have no choice. To compensate them would have to be done from tax money.

Enemployment checks and welfare are alike in that the incentive for abuse is rampant. These programs are set up to serve a purpose, and the strange things about human nature that a legislator might be able to foresee result in unintended effects that wilt the result.

The property seizures law might have watched the money more closely, though no one could have suspected how quickly the municipalities would be corrupted by the opportunity for legal theft.

The acts of congress allowing the violation of the Fourth Amendment, due to the threat of war and attacks, might have secured liberty had these acts arranged for meaningful recourse when these new powers granted to government are abused. At present, there is no abuse of covert powers known, and the examples disappear. Gag orders prevent the revealing of unwarranted searches. Surely, if the powers are never abused, there should be little reason not to establish a way that congress can look into abuses. But something prevents us from these measures.

Look, America, where we once complained that there was a McDonald’s on every corner, now there is a CVS.

And what moron put a computer in charge of indicting Unemployment fraud?

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