On April 6, 20-year-old Ty MacDowell led a march in Portland, Maine, designed to raise awareness of sexism. She did this by walking bare-breasted down the street with two dozen fellow women. MacDowell was shocked to learn that far from decreasing sexism, revealing her bosom drew hundreds of men with cameras. "I'm really upset by the men," she moped, "watching it like it's a parade."
This is called the law of unintended consequences. Anyone with half a brain could foresee the consequences of MacDowell's march -- there's a reason men spend years of their lives perusing the Internet for booby shots.
There are other applications of the law of unintended consequences, however, that are less obvious.
In the 1960s, liberals dramatically expanded the welfare state under the banner of Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society. Johnson and his liberal allies created Welfare, the Job Corps, the Model Cities Program, Head Start, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Medicare, Medicaid and many other governmental make-work, pay-the-poor programs. Johnson referred to these programs as a "beautiful woman." (Johnson was a serial womanizer, so that was his dearest metaphor.)
At the same time, Johnson was escalating spending in Vietnam; from 1965 to 1968, Johnson augmented the military budget by 25 percent. This frightened Johnson to no end. According to historian Robert D. Hormats, "Johnson frequently remarked to his assistant Joseph Califano that the massive financial demands of World War II had killed the New Deal and the increase in funding for the Korean War had killed Truman's Fair Deal, and he was concerned a similar fate would befall the Great Society." Vietnam was, in Johnson's word, a "bitch."
The beautiful woman and the bitch were fighting over the same tax dollars. Eventually, LBJ was forced to raise taxes dramatically in order to curtail the budget crisis that was destroying the dollar. In 1968, the same man who had created the massive social safety nets, comprising a huge portion of the federal budget, suddenly called for "fiscal restraint" and "responsible fiscal policy." Not coincidentally, in that same speech, LBJ announced he would not run for re-election. Only a few years later, Democrats in Congress refused to fund the Vietnam War, instead choosing to continue funding the social programs LBJ had instituted.
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