Thursday, May 03, 2012

The law of unintended consequences

A fine example of the law of unintended consequences has recently come to my notice.

Where I live the council recently erected pooh-bag dispensers. These bags are easier to use than plastic shopping bags, which often have holes and are bulkier in the pocket, so people are making use of them and not carrying their own bags.  BUT the dispensers keep running out. Result - less dog pooh is  picked up. The consequence of the policy is the exact opposite of its intent - more dog pooh.

I have reverted to carrying my own bags but  can imagine some people now blaming their failure to pick up after their dog on the council for not ensuring the dispensers are full at all times!

Moral of the story. The more you do for people, the less they will do for themselves. The more responsibility you assume for them, the less they will assume for themselves.

(I was reminded of this by a story on 3 News this morning about a set-up whereby people can exchange dog pooh for free wifi. Great incentive to get people busy collecting as much of it as they can find.)


Anonymous said...

Timaru District Council put up a stainless steel pole bag dispenser next to a BMX track. Plastic bags all pulled out and scattered over the landscape. Stainless dispenser stands empty.. Must've cost over $1000 to make/erect this for zero dog crap uplift...

Mark Hubbard said...

By the by, we've bought three of those tidy little plastic poo bag dispensers - available most pet shops - they contain rolls of about 40 or so bio-degradable bags (only about $2a roll). I keep one in my pocket - they're that small - of whatever I'm wearing, and one in each of the cars, so never get caught out.

nZclassicalliberal said...

This is an excellent example of the law of unintended consequences. I imagine that this could actually be tested. Might be a good economics research project. Accurately measuring changes in the quantity of poo might be a challenge though.

FF said...

Sign on an Australian beach:

"If your dog makes a mess, please put it in the bin provided".

Unfortunately the bins don't seem to hold the larger dogs,only the smaller ones.