The Unintended Consequences of Public Policies

By Thomas E. Hall

Publisher: Cato Institute

Imprint: Cato Institute

When government imposes new taxes, rules, or regulations, it creates outcomes that often differ from the original intent. In some cases, these outcomes are so severe that they render the policy a failure. The law of unintended consequences has taken on an increasing importance during the era of ever-expanding government, and this book explores four important examples: cigarette taxes, alcohol prohibition, the minimum wage, and federal income tax. Thomas E. Hall examines how the policies came into being, what underlying political considerations influenced the process, the unintended outcomes of the policies, and why many of these policies are still in place. Because many of these unintended consequences are seriously adverse, the author argues that the moral of these four key examples is that whenever a new government policy is being considered, much more detailed review must be given to the range of potential unintended consequences—a practice that is rarely or accurately undertaken.


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