The timing of side effects

Loosen the constraints on a system and the system will almost always do better in the short run.

That’s if we define better as the visible outputs of what the system does. And short run as, “the stuff that happens before we have to live with the side effects.”

So… if you remove environmental regulation from a factory, it will probably make more stuff faster. For awhile. But then the river is sludge and the workers are dead, so in the long run, not so much.

If you stop paying taxes, you’ll have more money today. But the civilization you depend on to enjoy that money will soon disappear.

If you stop taking medicine because you don’t like the stomach ache it gives you, you’ll definitely have a better day today. Until you stop having a better day, because of the illness that comes back because you stopped taking your medicine.

All side effects are more simply called “effects.” And getting clear about the time frame we live in is the first step to leaving things better than we found them.

       


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