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The unintended consequences of sustainability policies

An issue that has recently found a niche among certain members of the local public policy tinkering class is how to deal with Excel Dairy, a 1,500-head dairy operation near Thief River Falls. This particular operation has lately been a favored whipping boy for some and is their de facto standard bearer for so-called “factory farming” operations statewide.

Unfortunately for the public policy tinkering class, despite all of their self-righteous indignation, this dairy and all of the detriments accompanying it are results of their tinkering.

A recent article expounded in great detail how Excel benefited from preferential treatment under a property tax exemption originally imposed by the tinkerers for reason of environmental protection.

The great irony and the lesson we MUST take away from this story is that with every government policy, every tax or tax break, every rule, every regulation is created a multitude of unanticipated and undesired consequences. Every time government decides it knows best how to meddle and manipulate something into or out of existence, it has effects on society nobody could imagine until the damage has already been done. Once the damage becomes apparent, the tinkerers usually rely either on covering up the resultant problem or expanding the power and control of government even further, thus creating even more unintended consequences.

When it comes to analyzing any social problem, two things need to happen. First, the tinkerers must own up to and take ownership of the problems their tinkering has created. Second, we must roll back and abolish every single policy brought to us by the tinkerers.

If we avoid these responsibilities, we’ll merely continue to wallow in the liquid manure pit known as “public policy” and its tinkerings.


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