2015 FIFTH PLACE ESSAY

Not Just an American Problem

by Stanley Janesko, Age 17
Submitting Teacher: Robert Nellis


Government exists so that chaos and disorder do not consume citizens. At its best, a government fulfills the stipulations that are explicitly represented in the Social Contract Theory. According to Locke -a man regarded as a father to the modern philosophies of government- the ideal situation would be the State of Nature: in which man lives in a state of perfect liberty.[1]Of course, there are limits to this blissful idea of the natural condition. Man must give up certain liberties so that the government can carry out its duties. However, are there instances when government oversteps the sacred bond between constituents and their leaders? According to Stossel's "War On The Little Guy", the government has gone beyond in their control of the everyday life of citizens. The Social Contract has been breached, and the natural condition of man is being threatened. This is not the first time.

During the British rule of colonial India, the English governor of Delhi was concerned with the enormous amounts of venomous cobra snakes infesting the land. To combat the cobra population, the government implemented a bounty to regulate the naturally large population of snakes found in Delhi.[2]The oblivious government thought they had solved the cobra issue because of the extensive volumes of dead cobras the citizens were capturing. Little did they know that their regulation of a small matter would spur citizens to mass produce snakes, resulting in the creation of a black market cobra enterprise. When the government became conscious of the cobra breeding market, they immediately abolished the bounty program, triggering the breeders to release the cobras back into the wild. As a result of the British government's imprudent regulation, the magnitude of the problem at hand reached scopes beyond their wildest imagination.

Naturally, the British wanted to remedy a problem they experienced for the greater good. One can only assume they had the greatest intentions at heart. However, the execution of regulating a part of the natural ecosystem of Delhi is where they went wrong. They sought to disrupt a natural order, and it backfired on them. Rather than reducing or eliminating the cobra population, they stimulated the breeding of cobras, and once they stopped the cobra population was worse than ever before.

The effects of this imposition on the natural order are clearly only negative. Regulations coerced by the government are designed to solve a problem, but more often than not it only exacerbates the situation, much like the cobra issue in Delhi. The aforementioned matter coined the phrase "cobra effect" which is now used to describe an attempt to a solution that makes the problem worse.

Unintended consequences are generally caused by a lack or misinterpretation of knowledge.[3]Authorities in charge of creating regulations regularly overlook or choose to ignore long-term or unintended effects in hopes of solving the problem immediately. The thoughtless actions the government performs are quick fixes to situations that require much more than deprivation of rights. Tighter regulations almost always result in adverse side effects. From constitutional regulations such as prohibition -which ultimately led to the creation of organized crime- to the plethora of unintended consequences mentioned in Stossel's "War On The Little Guy", regulations have been nothing but trouble.[4]

There is a lesson here. It is quite simple, yet it is a difficult concept for government officials to understand. The citizens and the government have entered into a contract long ago. Citizens gave up certain liberties in exchange for governmental security. This does not mean that the natural state of man should be disrupted in any way, nor does it mean that the government has the right to regulate the unalienable rights that man is born with. In accordance with the principles of the Social Contract Theory and the philosophies behind the state of nature, the government cannot control what is outside of their scope. Though it is understood that regulations exist to maintain order, it is also understood that government fails where regulations consume the lives of citizens.

Bibliograpy

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) http://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-cont/

The Cobra Effect: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast (Freakonomics RSS) http://freakonomics.com/2012/10/11/the-cobra-effect-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

Unintended Consequences (: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics) http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/UnintendedConsequences.html

Prohibition (PBS) http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/unintended-consequences/

[1]Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

http://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-cont/ [2]The Cobra Effect: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast (Freakonomics RSS)

http://freakonomics.com/2012/10/11/the-cobra-effect-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/ [3]Unintended Consequences (: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics)

http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/UnintendedConsequences.html [4]Prohibition (PBS)

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/unintended-consequences/