Most of us have heard the cliché, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I suspect that most of us at one time or another tried something with the best intentions and it was a dismal failure or it turned out significantly different than what we expected. If we learned from that experience, then it was not a total loss.
Companies experience the same failures by trying something new with the best intentions and it costs them a lot of money when it fails. The Ford Motor Company had the best intentions when it introduced the Edsel to the public. Wow! Talk about a failure and a significant loss of money and prestige from that fiasco. The Coca-Cola company tried New Coke several years ago and was surprised when it was not accepted. The company returned to its classic Coke in a heartbeat. Generally when companies try something with the best intentions and it does not work, they learn from the experience because of the cost in reputation and/or money.
That does not seem to hold true for governments. I accept the fact that most government enterprises start with the best intentions. But when they do not pan out, there do not seem to be negative consequences for those responsible and the poor programs take on a life of their own.
President Johnson implemented his “War on Poverty” in the late ‘60s with much fanfare. Since that time trillions of dollars have been transferred from producers to non-producers in an effort to reduce poverty. The poverty rate barely has moved during the intervening decades and yet the solution offered is to spend even more money.
The Department of Energy was created to reduce or eliminate our dependence of foreign oil. President Carter launched the department in 1977 and, decades later, our dependence has increased and the energy budget continues to rise.
The states of New York and Maryland both implemented a special tax on millionaires with the expectation that doing so would put more money in state coffers. Many of the millionaires in both states decided to move and avoid the onerous new tax.
Years ago when I was stationed in the Washington D.C. area many people from Virginia and Maryland came into the city to buy their booze because the tax on it was less. In its infinite wisdom, the city of Washington decided to raise the tax and take advantage of these customers.
People react to circumstances and politicians never seem to understand that fact. Customers from Maryland and Virginia determined the additional tax eliminated their savings when time and gas consumption were considered. Washington saw its revenue from booze sales decline after the added tax was implemented rather than increase. Surprise!
President George H. W. Bush implemented a luxury tax on items such as boats, jewelry, luxury cars and furs. Any boat that cost more than $100,000 had an additional 10-percent tax added. Our boating industry dried up and jobs were lost.
I believe most people accept that taxes are needed; but when they perceive they are being ripped off, they react. In the case of the luxury tax, they stopped buying those items or went somewhere else to purchase them. This bill was so onerous that it did not take long before it was rescinded.
When people have the opportunity to make choices, they make decisions based on their best self interest. That holds true in just about anything. As individuals, we must suffer consequences when we make poor decisions about almost everything. Our intentions mean little if it costs us a lot of money or prestige.
I am sure readers can think of countless other cases where companies or the government did something and the unintended consequences surprised them. In the case of companies, we merely go to competitors, but there is little that we can do when government does something stupid. That is why more people must pay attention to how their representatives vote and let them know that they are concerned.
Donald Myers is a retired Marine Colonel and regular contributor to Hernando Today. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.