Archives for unintended consequences



The Paradox of Road Choice

Two physicists and a computer scientist used Google maps to study traffic in Boston, London, and New York, and found that when people use real-time driving maps to try to pick the fastest routes, traffic slows down. Read More »



Fire-Starting Incentives

Two French firefighters admitted to starting brush fires on the island of Corsica on July 8 and July 14. Their motivation: overtime bonus pay of 19 euros for nighttime work (July 8) and 38 euros on July 14, for Bastille Day. Read More »



What You Didn't Know About Obama's Fuel-Efficiency Rule

The Obama administration this week unveiled its new proposal to raise fuel efficiency in American cars. Clear as smog, right? Well, Freakonomics Q&A guest Keith Hennessey, a former economics adviser in the Bush White House, has written up a detailed post on the proposal’s complications and its likely unintended consequences. Read More »



What Do a 19th-Century Brownstone and a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Have in Common?

In a column we wrote a while back about the unintended consequences of well-meaning legislation, we highlighted one of the failures of the Endangered Species Act: in the lag time between when an animal’s habitat is announced to be under consideration for the E.S.A. and the protection actually goes into effect, landowners have incentive to prophylactically destroy the habitat. Read More »



How Restrictions Come Back to Haunt You

Photo: Library of Congress There is a review of Kat Long‘s The Forbidden Apple in last Sunday’s New York Times. The review describes a number of incidents where efforts to ban or restrict transactions in one market spilled over with negative consequences into a related market. To eliminate drinking on Sundays, New York City restricted […] Read More »



Orange Juice, Black Eye

| To ring in the new year, Tropicana rolled out a weird, minimalist, futuristic redesign of its iconic orange juice cartons. Sales immediately plunged 20 percent, and after just two months on the market, Tropicana scotched the redesign. The quick rollback is all but unprecedented. Why did people react so negatively? After all, the design […] Read More »



Who Said This, When, and About What?

| “I think we will look back in 10 years’ time and say we should not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930′s is true in 2010.” That’s Sen. Byron Dorgan (D.-North Dakota), from a 1999 Times article on […] Read More »



Misadventures in Risk Management

| While A.I.G. continues to dominate the news, it’s worth reading this 2002 Economist article, which cast doubt on the insurance giant’s early forays into the derivatives market. Back then, A.I.G. argued that “derivatives play an important part in reducing the company’s overall risk.” By 2009, those same investments had left the company so badly […] Read More »