Harry R. Jackson, Jr.: 54.5 MPG and The Law of Unintended Consequences

Legislators and regulators need to observe a fundamental Golden Rule: Do not implement new laws if you have not considered or cannot control important unintended consequences.

Unintended Consequences by John Ross, 1996

Unintended Consequences by John Ross, 1996 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author Jackson’s premise is wrong: one cannot foresee all the unintended consequences. Many won’t manifest themselves until after the fact.

But that’s not the point I wish to make. Jackson outlines many of the unintended consequences of forcing car makers to raise gas mileage to 54 mpg on their vehicles. And he does a good job:

  • Each vehicle will cost more
  • This will increase interest costs as most new vehicles are financed
  • Lower income people won’t be able to buy them
  • Lower income people will be forced into the used car market
  • This increased demand will drive the prices of used cars higher
  • This will force lower income people into driving “hoopties”—pieces of junk which cost more to operate

Jackson concludes, then, that increased gas mileage requirements (CAFE standards) are a “regressive tax” on the poor. But that still isn’t the point I want to make.

What if all these unintended consequences were, after all, intended. What if politicians want to reduce the mobility of lower income people? What if it’s part of a plan to force more people to use public transportation which would require—voila!—more government!

There are other unintended consequences. Lighter, more fuel efficient cars and trucks will cost people their lives and increased injuries, putting more pressure on insurance rates. But that’s good for insurance companies isn’t it? And aren’t insurance companies interested in increased revenues? And aren’t some of them politically connected to the PTB (Powers That Be) in Washington?

And doesn’t this fit nicely into the scam? We must, after all, reduce our “carbon footprints” in order to meet the latest UN demands—a la the Kyoto Protocol—don’t we? That’s intended, isn’t it?

Maybe those unintended consequences aren’t so unintended after all.

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