Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Unintended consequences

There's a lot of talk about the law of unintended consequences.
I worry about the word law in that collocation. I think it's the wrong word. It's not a law in science; it's not a law in law.
We already have sod's law; and I am persuaded we all experience that; we can all be prats from time to time.
But to speak of a law of unintended consequences seems to give some people comfort. It allows them to persuade themselves that whatever they did it would have happened; and, therefore, that they are not responsible.
A little while ago, Councillor Jayne McCoy, Sutton Council's executive member for planning, economic development and housing, commenting on a woman who had been injured when a new public bench had collapsed said: "While there have been the inevitable issues with a project of this size, we hope the revamped town centre will serve to provide a better retail experience." [Sutton Guardian, October 2010]
I pass over the concept of not being injured by incompetent design as "a better retail experience" and draw your attention to "inevitable issues with a project this size". Inevitable issues? Inevitable? So they go ahead accepting that it is inevitable someone will design a bench that falls down if you sit on it?
There is nothing inevitable about it. That is not an unintended consequence of anything.
That is "Good enough for the plebs" and "I can't be arsed"

And that isn't quite what I started out to write about; but it's just as important.

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