You don’t have to be long around Republicans before they teach you the “law of unintended consequences”–the principle that, sometimes, things don’t go according to plan and sometimes they have the opposite effect of the one you intended. In a discussion of public policy, once your opponent resorts to the “law of unintended consequences” you know you’ve won the argument. You can interpret this to mean
1. Your idea seems like a good one.
2. She can’t think of any reason it won’t work, but…
3. It might not work.
Which, of course, is true about every good idea, ever. It even applies to the idea of doing less. The idea of reducing regulations is equally subject to the law of unintended consequences. For example, deregulation of media and telecommunications in 1996 has been, generally, a disaster with terrible unforeseen repercussions including ruining music, hampering the internet and giving money a louder voice in politics.
But still, the “law of unintended consequences” is preached to and by Republicans and Libertarians every day. To avoid “unintended consequences,” conservatives prefer to make their mainstay ideas which are manifest bullshit from the beginning. If I can’t rule out that a policy will give different results than the ones I intended, the best policy, they seem to argue, is to pursue nonsensical or even Machievellian goals, hoping to stumble into good results.
But in Republican minds, the law of unintended consequences doesn’t apply to things like privatizing social security or defunding the EPA, and it especially does not apply to foreign policy (arming the Syrian opposition? What could go wrong?). So, the next time you hear your Republican friend say “well, but you know the law of unintended consequences, don’t you?” don’t get frustrated. Simply apply your palm to your face and walk away victorious.