The Need to Identify the Unseen

by | Sep 24, 2022

When politicians announce a new program or policy, they tell us of all the great benefits that will result.

When politicians announce a new program or policy, they tell us of all the great benefits that will result. We are told that “green” energy mandates will generate jobs. They tell us that raising the minimum wage will benefit low-skilled workers. We are told that expanding the housing voucher program will allow tens of thousands of families to obtain better accommodations. There is truth in these claims, but by ignoring long-term consequences these truths are a veil for that which is unseen.

The jobs generated by wind and solar mandates are easy to see. We can see that a low-skilled who gets a significant increase in pay will benefit. We can see the families that benefit from housing vouchers. The benefits for each of these are visible and immediate. But these programs and policies do not occur in a vacuum. They have long-term consequences that are not easily seen. If we want to make good policy decisions, then we must identify the unseen.

“Green” energy mandates force us to use more expensive and unreliable energy sources. Power outages, such as those regularly experienced in California, and higher electricity bills are just two of the long-term consequences. Certainly, we can see when the power is out or that our electricity bill has skyrocketed. But the cause isn’t as easy to identify because the effect is not immediate.

The same is true of increases in the minimum wage. Higher unemployment among the low-skilled and unskilled increases, but not immediately. Certainly, some businesses will announce layoffs or curtailed work hours when the minimum wage is increased, and this can be easily seen. What isn’t seen are the jobs that are never created because it is economically unfeasible to pay more than a job is worth.

Identifying the unseen is a part of considering the full context. If we examine an issue or policy in isolation, then we look only at what is immediate and easily seen. We blind ourselves to the future consequences.

Admittedly, this is not easy, nor is it automatic. It requires a concentrated effort and an active mind. However, if we want to make the wisest policy choices and achieve the best long-term consequences, then it is crucial to identify the unseen.

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Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at texasipr.com.

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