55 MPH Speed Limit

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The federally mandated 55 MPH speed limit failed at every goal: it was instituted to increase safety and save oil. It only saved 1/4th the oil they promised ($350M), but it cost $3.65B in enforcement. We went from 70% compliance of speed limits to 90% non-compliance, no difference in accidents or fatalities (in fact when we raised speed limits later, accident rates declined). It caused a bitter legal fight against the unconstitutional overreach and was eventually abandoned after many millions of dollars and decades of court time wasted on that.

Unintended Consequences
Every action causes a reaction. Some reactions are pleasant surprises, many are negatives, some are counter productive (perverse) and make the problem worse. Since consequences matter more than intentions, we have a social obligation to plan for them (and avoid them). The phrase "unintended consequences" is used as either a wry warning against the hubristic belief that humans can control the world around them, or more often against a really bad implementation of not-so-smart ideas or implementations. Those that deny unintended consequences are denying science (reality).



📚 References