Great Moments in Unintended Consequences (Vol. 5)

You can find more here There are reasons‘s “great moments in unintended consequences”—stories of when something that sThis sounds terrible. The entire series can be viewed here.

Part I: The Transcontinental Tango

The year was 1862.

Problem: The railroad doesn’t connect coastal elites.

Solution: For every mile of transcontinental rail track that is laid, pay railroad companies.

It sounds like an excellent idea with all the best intentions. You can’t go wrong.

Even though Congress is not a great watcher of spending during Civil War, they are even more bad at it. The Union Pacific pilfered almost half of a million dollars by lengthening the route without anyone looking.

After two and a half years of construction, the Union Pacific laid track all the way from Omaha to…40 miles outside of Omaha.

I would rather screw the taxpayers.

Part 2: How to Burn Cash

Year: 2012.

The problem is Northern Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Solution: Subsidy for heat from renewable sources.

It sounds like an excellent idea with all the best intentions. You can’t go wrong.

Well, it turns out the rate paid by the subsidy was greater than the cost of the fuel being used—so the more wood pellets you burned, the greater your profit. The “Cash for Ash” program was created by farmers who heat empty buildings to earn a living.

The fallout saw Northern Ireland’s first Minister refuse to step aside in any inquiry. In protest, the second first minister resigned, the Northern Ireland Assembly was disbanded, and the executive branch fell for nearly three years.

This is not to mention the fact that taxpayers are losing a lot of money.

Part 3. Part 3. Let’s do it. 

The year: Uhhh…some time in the 19th century? Maybe? Not sure. This could be false. It’s possible.

Problem is: Infested by venomous snakes, Delhi, an English colonial town, has been infested.

Answer: Anyone who brings in a dead snake will get money.

It sounds like an excellent idea with all the best intentions. You can’t go wrong.

People realized quickly that the price of a dead cobra’s carcass was more than what it cost to raise one. Once city officials got wind of lucrative snake breeding farms, they repealed the bounty—leading cobra farmers to release their now worthless snakes into the wild. The net result was more cobras, lots of cash wasted, and a book written by a German man with a title that makes it sound like something out of “The Jungle Book.” G.I. Joe.

While the veracity of the cobra story is hard to pin down, a similar story was documented in Hanoi under French colonial rule—only this time the issue was rats, with a bounty paid for every rat tail brought to the authorities. After being released from rat trappers with an understanding of economics, officials noticed that the rats had no tails.

But don’t worry, we learned our lesson and it never happened ag—

In Fort Benning, Georgia, where the feral pig population was out of control, the bounty—for some forehead slapping reason—was pig tails, which once again…blah, blah, blah…more pigs.

They ended the bounty. Don’t worry.

Unintended consequences are often the best. Negative results, good intentions

Meredith and Austin Bragg wrote and produced this film. Austin Bragg is the narrator.