Unintended Consequences

Great Moments in Unintended Consequences: Window Tax, Canadian Strip Clubs, Hero Pay (Vol. 3)

Good intentions, bad results.


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Here are a few more of Reason's "great moments in unintended consequences," when something that sounds like a terrific idea goes horribly wrong.

Watch the whole series.

Window Wealth

The Year: 1696

The Problem: Britain needs money.

The Solution: Tax windows! A residence's number of windows increases with relative wealth and is easily observed and verified from afar. A perfect revenue generator is born! 

Sounds like a great idea! With the best of intentions. What could possibly go wrong?

To avoid higher taxes, houses were built with fewer windows, and existing windows were bricked up. Tenements were charged as single dwellings, putting them in a higher tax bracket, which then led to rising rents or windowless apartments. The lack of ventilation and sunlight led to greater disease prevalence, stunted growth, and one rather irate Charles Dickens

It took more than 150 years for politicians to see the error of their ways—perhaps because their view was blocked by bricks. 

Loonie Ladies

The Year: 1992

The Problem: Nude dancing is degrading to women and ruining the moral fabric of Alberta, Canada.

The Solution: Establish a one-meter buffer zone between patrons and dancers.

Sounds like total buzzkill! With puritanical intentions. What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out that dancers earn most of their money in the form of tips, and dollar bills don't fly through the air very well. Thus, the measure designed to protect dancers from degrading treatment resulted in "the loonie toss"—a creepy ritual where naked women are pelted with Canadian one-dollar coins, which are known as loonies.

Way to make the ladies feel special, Alberta. 

Gallant Grocers

The Year: 2021

The Problem: Local bureaucrats need to look like they care.

The Solution: Mandate that grocery stores provide "hero pay" to their workers.

Sounds like a great idea! With the best of intentions. What could possibly go wrong?

Besides the fact that these ordinances may preempt federal labor and equal protection laws, a 28 percent pay raise for employees can be catastrophic to grocery stores that traditionally operate on razor-thin margins. As a result, many underperforming stores closed, resulting in a "hero pay" of sudden unemployment.

Don't spend it all in one place!

Written and produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg; narrated by Austin Bragg