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Reynolds' Law



Politicians of all stripes are too often persuaded that helping people is good for them. They forget that the Law of Unintended Consequences is always lurking in the shadows, eager to convert the best intentions into worse outcomes. Reynolds' Law helps explain why this is so. From Mark Perry, whose blog is an endless source of free market facts and common sense, comes this gem:

In 2010, Philo of Alexandria coined the term Reynolds’ Law: “Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.”

Reynolds’ Law was based on this remark by Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.
Read the whole thing.

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