07 September 2010

Link Sausages of Unintended Consequences

Anyone who reads this blawg (or, indeed, pays attention to the history of publishing, or of intellectual property) knows the Law of Unintended Consequences: For every action or policy, there will be unintended consequences that undermine the purpose of the action or policy for a significant portion of persons affected by that action or policy. DRM is an excellent example; one of the reasons (besides price) that I won't use a dedicated e-book reader is that I actually remember CopyIIPC and related battles... and that leads into the first sausage on the platter...

  • One of the downsides of the "e-book revolution" is that it is harder to buy e-books on a trip overseas, thanks to the same sort of digital nonsense as partly cripples DVDs: Region controls. And if you want the UK edition of the Harry Potter books, rather than the US version, a US-based buyer can't cough up the extra shipping to buy from a foreign online store.
  • It's hard to determine what the biggest unintended consequence of the three-branch elective system established in the Constitution has been. There have been quite a few, ranging from abject inability to contest the War of 1812 (which the US "won" because England was not capable of logistical support Over Here, let alone while fighting that Corsican guy's mob nearer home) to the Second War of American Secession (better known as the American Civil War, or — in certain parts of the country — the War Between the States) to the peculiarity that the fifth-largest economy in the world is a single US state... and it's bankrupt. One candidate, though, has to be the "political class" phenomenon — which is familiar to anyone who has paid any attention at all to Europe in the last half of the nineteenth century, but that's yet another unintended consequence. I don't endorse Mr Codevilla's analysis without some severe reservations (such as whether identifying a "political class" is an evaluative or normative exercise in the first place), but it's definitely worth considering.
  • "Samuel Johnson" at The Economist muses on one of the unintended consequences of bestsellerdom: the copies thrown out/donated to thrift shops (and, of course, lawsuits).
  • Privacy, tracking, and datamining are not — as TV would have us believe — either universal or particularly fast and easy, especially when one is looking for particular kinds of data. It always helps to look in the right place... and the existence of the Atlantic provides yet another unintended consequence, this time of "Stasi-like" data gathering by European ISPs.
  • Unintended consequence of media baronship: Wiretapping of political leaders... followed by those political leaders' refusal to adequately investigate when the wiretaps become known. To put it another way: A "free press" is not necessarily the same thing as an "Austrian free market press."