Policies, Politics and Consequences

In the few years that I have been around and paying attention to the debate, I have been able to learn that for everything we do in the political and policy space, there are consequences. What have been of particular interest to me is what the policy folks call “unintended consequences.”

First let me mention what I learned from one of my of colleagues who have always told me that “everything that makes for good politics does not necessarily make for good policy.” At first it sounds like a cliché but on closer examination, it really does make sense. There are lots of things that sound very good and make lots of political sense but on deeper thought and closer examination, they don’t make good policies.

In the few months that I spend around the table, I tried my best to ensure that we stayed far away from political optics as much as possible so that we don’t make it difficult to take the policy decisions if and when that time comes. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we had to play politics in order to get certain things done. Understanding and appreciating the timing is the most important thing.

But even in the policy realm, we still have to be further careful when we are taking policy decisions or actions. While we may intend one thing from our policy actions, the fact remains that there could be “unintended” consequences from our actions. My advice has always been, let us try as much as possible to consider what we want to achieve and what is the potential “unintended” consequence of our action. It is not easy to spot all of the “unintended” consequences but it is important to consider as many of them as possible before we make the move.

My advice is that if the “unintended” consequences are negative and larger in impact than the “intended” consequence of the policy action, then let’s reconsider our policy actions.

I think we all need to seriously consider the consequences of our policy actions within the political environment in which we find ourselves.

The last thing that anyone wants is to undertake well-intentioned policy action and then realize that the “unintended consequences” far out-weigh the potential benefits of the policy decision. It gets even more frustrating when it is clear that the “unintended consequences” were glaring and avoidable.