Those Unintended Consequences

Susan Page
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Wednesday - March 30, 2005
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Many things we do in life have unintended consequences.

At the time, a decision seems so right yet can end up so wrong. Sometimes it’s motivated by expediency, political gain, emotion, ego, greed or selfishness. After all, we’re human. And sometimes results are even better than expected.

Issues such as immigration and securing our borders have unintended consequences. A rail system on Oahu and the Akaka Bill may, too. San Francisco has found that legalizing medicinal marijuana has reaped unforeseen outcomes. The war in Iraq, miracles in medicine, and welfare have them, too.

Railroading in more traffic: A rail system to Leeward Oahu sounds like the solution to all our traffic woes. Hawaii’s Congressional Rep. Neil Abercrombie thinks so and said (on last week’s KHET’s Dialog program) that, for one, it will generate many building projects around the rail stations like new condos — specifically, he said, like Central Oahu’s Queen Emma Towers. Unintended consequence: more housing, more people (yes, some may use the trains some of the time) and, ultimately, more traffic.

Bordering on insanity: Letting foreign workers slip, illegally, across the Mexican border decades ago seemed like the answer to help farms thrive. Unintended consequences: 1) National security breach. Terrorists, posing as Mexicans, have already made it across and into the U.S. and have reportedly been hired at nuclear power plants. 2) Huge cost in welfare, medical and education services afforded “illegals” — one factor in nearly bankrupting California. 3) Gross unfairness to those who go through legal means to become citizens. Our welfare system has made it more lucrative for Americans to sit idle than work on a strawberry farm or clean a hotel room.

“Pot” holes: The 1996 passage of California Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medical reasons seemed so humane. Unintended Consequence: In a March 20, ’05 San Francisco Chronicle article, “Pot Clinics Just Keep Growing,” we learn that the “legalized dope business is booming all over town.” There are now 37 marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco, the latest to open: The Happy Days Herbal Relief Center — run by a former crack addict and excon, still on probation — where a steady stream of “young and streetwise-looking customers showing up to buy or sample the goods,” like “G. Purple” for $20 a gram and assorted pot-laced brownies and cookies.

There are more than 126 “pot” clubs and support groups serving 100,000 “medical” marijuana users. In Ingleside (a SF district) “clubs” are all within a mile of eight schools, including City College, two high schools and a middle school. According to police Capt. Tim Hettrich, “it’s not uncommon for one kid with a card (medicinal authorization) to purchase an ounce or so of weed — then turn around and sell enough of it to his friends to support his own habit.”

Consequences of the illinformed: How many of us know exactly what the Akaka Bill says? Do we know what a Hawaiian nation will look like down the road five years? Ten? The devil is in the details. Are there any details yet? Who could predict that Indian tribes, rich with casino gambling money, would be buying major metropolitan high rise properties, claiming them as reservation land exempt from city or state taxes?

Till death do us part, unless one’s in a vegetative state: At 25 years old, can you imagine a scenario in which your spouse suddenly becomes mentally incapacitated? It might take a pricey team of lawyers to convince a judge that he or she once said they’d rather die than live like that, but that Schiavo guy managed it and, along with current fiancée and two children, might reap an intended consequence of millions in a malpractice settlement. Maybe he and OJ can start a business together.

No WMDs, but dominoes are falling. Unintended (or unexpected by most of us) is free Iraq’s next-door neighbor, Lebanon, rising up against dictatorship and occupier Syria, and Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians having real elections — and serious talks with Israel. Iran better now start telling truths. Freedom is becoming a desert fad.

Unintended consequences on a national scale force healthy public and personal debate.

Did I research the issue thoroughly before forming an opinion, voting, acting? Do I really believe this way now that I see what can happen? Have I decided too quickly without factoring in cause and effect? What have I learned?

We can’t predict the future, but we can at least do due diligence on every major decision we make. We must.

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