FREAK-TV: Is the Law of Unintended Consequences the Strongest Law Around?

Video

The Americans with Disabilities Act was considered landmark legislation. Here’s a summary of the law from the Department of Justice Web site:

The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.

How much did the A.D.A. actually improve the lot of America’s disabled workers? That’s the question posed in our most recent video quiz. You may want to pause the video before the answer is revealed and take a look at this paper by Daron Acemoglu and Joshua Angrist.

Addendum:

For those who may be hearing impaired or otherwise unable to hear the audio, below is a transcript:

Hi, I’m Stephen Dubner. In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, or A.D.A., which was meant to strengthen the rights of workers with physical or mental handicaps.

How did this legislation affect such workers? Here are four guesses:

(a) Their employment levels rose 30 percent.
(b) Their employment rose 15 percent.
(c) Their employment levels were unchanged. Or
(d) Disabled workers were actually hired less often than before.

The correct answer is (d).

After the A.D.A. went into effect, there was actually a sharp drop in employment among disabled workers, apparently because employers, now concerned that they wouldn’t be able to discipline or fire incompetent workers who happened to be disabled, simply chose to not hire disabled workers in the first place.

The A.D.A. was a powerful law that became a classic example of an even more powerful one — the law of unintended consequences.

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  1. Silvanus says:

    Wow, that’s a half glass empty look at the federal government protecting citizens of the republic from corporate abuse… because there might have been a need for this law? Perhaps? Maybe there was just a little bit of moral injustice going on in corporate America that merited legislation?

    Here’s a better example of the law of unintended consequences- prohibition = rise in organized crime.

    ZOMG= those prohibitionists were stupid! How could they do that?
    Answer: It is doubtful anyone would link the influx of immigrant gangs, organized crime and bootlegging to a morality law. See Prohibition of Slavery for another morality law (which ironically, is the one used by corporations to establish corporate personhood thanks to Senator Roscoe Conklin’s perjured testimony to the 1876 case regarding the rail road and Santa Clara).

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  2. Silvanus says:

    Wow, that’s a half glass empty look at the federal government protecting citizens of the republic from corporate abuse… because there might have been a need for this law? Perhaps? Maybe there was just a little bit of moral injustice going on in corporate America that merited legislation?

    Here’s a better example of the law of unintended consequences- prohibition = rise in organized crime.

    ZOMG= those prohibitionists were stupid! How could they do that?
    Answer: It is doubtful anyone would link the influx of immigrant gangs, organized crime and bootlegging to a morality law. See Prohibition of Slavery for another morality law (which ironically, is the one used by corporations to establish corporate personhood thanks to Senator Roscoe Conklin’s perjured testimony to the 1876 case regarding the rail road and Santa Clara).

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  3. EB says:

    Wow, that’s a half glass empty look at the federal government protecting citizens of the republic from corporate abuse…

    Well, if you’re talking about the federal government protecting citizens from abuse, you must first understand… it does not.

    The politicians take their payroll from the corporations, award the contracts and let the public pay and pay. There is no protection from the govt in that arena. There never has been.

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  4. EB says:

    Wow, that’s a half glass empty look at the federal government protecting citizens of the republic from corporate abuse…

    Well, if you’re talking about the federal government protecting citizens from abuse, you must first understand… it does not.

    The politicians take their payroll from the corporations, award the contracts and let the public pay and pay. There is no protection from the govt in that arena. There never has been.

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  5. oddTodd says:

    The most interesting unintended consequence of ADA is bike riding on the sidewalk. Before cities cut ramps into their sidewalks at every intersection, bikers used to ride on the street where they belong.

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  6. oddTodd says:

    The most interesting unintended consequence of ADA is bike riding on the sidewalk. Before cities cut ramps into their sidewalks at every intersection, bikers used to ride on the street where they belong.

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  7. Austin says:

    In response to the first poster saying that there was “a need for the law, etc…

    I think part of the point is that the law was intended to right that injustice and instead resulted in companies trying not to hire disabled people..

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  8. Austin says:

    In response to the first poster saying that there was “a need for the law, etc…

    I think part of the point is that the law was intended to right that injustice and instead resulted in companies trying not to hire disabled people..

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0